LAKELAND, Fla. -- Sunday was an emotional day for hundreds of Tampa Bay families as nearly 130 National Guard troops deployed to Southwest Asia.
“He has a heart of gold and I’m going to miss him," said Julia Beeson while bouncing her six-month old baby on her hip.
There is no shortage of tears as spouses, parents and children hold on tight to every last minute.
“Separation. That’s the worst part about it," said Michael Zelenenki. He and others of the 116th Field Artillery Battalion preparing to pack up and leave for a year.
Time and memories have been sacrificed for the sake of country and freedom.
“People want to do bad things to us so I mean we need to do that so we can protect everyone who stays back here like my family," Zelenenki said.
You can understand why the hugs are a little tighter and the tears run a little harder.
“I love him so much and that everything here will be fine," said Karma Zelenenki to her husband. Words she hopes will give him strength abroad.
It is a year away from home but they know this goodbye is temporary.
“I’ll be back soon and we’re going to live our lives like we never left," said Zelenenki.
These families left counting down the days until they can once more say hello.