Local/State

Emotional send-off for NJ troops headed to Afghanistan

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Savoring a few final hugs, freezing tender moments in time - more than 150 service men and women and their families said their goodbyes.

The troops, out of Hammonton, New Jersey, prepared Saturday to deploy to Afghanistan.

"I think for me, I joined because I love my country and this is what I'm excited to do," said Pfc. Jordan Hayes, 150th Engineer Company.

A passionate soldier, Hayes is embarking on his first-ever deployment.

The 20-year-old is leaving his little brother, his parents and his fiancé.

Hayes planned ahead and proposed to his girlfriend last weekend.

"I know that she's gonna be here when I get back the family is gonna be here when I get back and I know they'll be supporting me from home so it helps," said Hayes.

"I'm very proud of him and I know he's excited to go and have this experience," said Corinna Santos, fiancé.

The 150th Engineer Company is about to begin a several months-long mission to deconstruct military bases in Afghanistan.

They will either hand them over to Afghan forces or return the land to its pre-war condition as American forces downsize in the Middle East.

"It's bittersweet because you're leaving but this is what you're trained to do, signed up to do," said Capt. Jeffrey Hagar.

It's Sgt. Demetrius Saxton's third deployment. He's used to saying these tough goodbyes but it doesn't get any easier for his wife and their four children, who were too emotional to attend the deployment ceremony.

"When he left in 2008, he left when the baby was two weeks old, the baby didn't know him at all and had to mend that relationship and now he's going again," said Persephone Saxton, wife.

On special and difficult occasions, like this she holds on tightly to meaningful mementos from her husband.

The sendoff ceremonies will continue Sunday at Hammonton Armory. Then, led by a police escort, the 150th Engineer Company will head to Fort Dix to prepare for deployment on Monday.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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