350+ National Guard members get emotional send-off before deployment; ‘A little bit anxious’

FRANKLIN -- It was a bittersweet morning for hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard members and their families. The guard members, more than 350 strong, will deploy this summer. On Friday, July 6, they gathered at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex for a special ceremony.

"A sendoff ceremony is incredibly important for our soldiers and our airmen who deploy," said Capt. Joe Trovato.

The Milwaukee-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery will head for the Middle East soon.

"A little bit anxious not knowing what's ahead. But I feel confident in the people I'm surrounded by," said Ronald Zaleski.

 

Their assignments will not be simple.

"They're going to be providing direct fire support to coalition forces in the Middle East," Capt. Trovato said.

Friday's ceremony was a chance for the soldiers to be celebrated -- and motivated before they leave.

"We live in the land of the free because of the brave," said Gov. Scott Walker.

This is Zaleski's first deployment.  The son of a Marine Corps veteran is prepared for whatever may come his way.

"I felt the calling to serve my country and defend everything I love," Zaleski said.

Zaleski's mother swells with pride.

Renee Bielawa's son, Jacob, will also deploy. For her, the day is bittersweet.

"It's going to be hard letting him go," Bielawa said.

The soldiers will leave for training Saturday. They are scheduled to return home in about a year.