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Marion sends off soldiers with prayers and tears

Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:00:46 AM EST   Updated On: Aug 22 2013 07:45:49 PM EDT

WDBJ7 was invited to Marion, where families and friends said "so long", not goodbye.


Since 9-11, 12 years ago, when servicemen and women are deployed overseas, that news is a big deal in their hometowns.  WDBJ7 New River Valley reporter Orlando Salinas was invited to Marion, where families and friends said "so long" not goodbye.

On Thursday, Marion became any small town in America and it seemed like everyone came to see real life heroes. We saw several hundred folks in front on the town hall building. We asked town mayor David Helms, what does he want people to remember about the soldiers from the Army's 760th engineering company, deploying from his community?

"When you go by our town hall' said Helms, "think of our reserve unit that's in Afghanistan, pray for them!"

These soldiers will be tasked with tearing down some of the U.S. built military infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Standing several rows deep, these soldiers are tall and short; black, white and brown. Their military demeanor was amazing, even as they stood just 20 feet from their loved ones.

By the time the morning event actually began, the families had already hugged and wept.

In a split second though, a little girl broke free from her mother and ran to her daddy. Vanessa Addington quickly ran to the front of the formation and grabbed her daughter.  

First Sergeant Kenneth Addington swallowed hard and kept his composure, but I could tell he was near tears. Was he wondering if he should have picked up his daughter one more time?

I caught up with Vanessa Addington as soon as the event was over. The mother of three young children wanted to talk about a support group called "The 760th Family Readiness Group", that sends cards and letters to service personnel overseas. Vanessa was composed, until we asked about her daughter running to her husband one last time. "My husband's dad was over there," said Addington, "so I thought that's where she was going but, she went over to... stand by her daddy."

Kids from three different elementary schools came to this community send off. Older folks said now is the time to teach children to be thankful, while they're young.

We spotted Kayla Davis weeping openly in the crowd. The 17- year-old told me that her stepfather, Sergeant Justin Davis, was her hero and she shared a simple message: "I guess one thing I'd want everyone to understand, is when you see a veteran on the street or a soldier, tell them thank you and you love them, because it means a lot to them and it means a lot to me."

So the town of Marion turned out in big numbers, sending off it's men and women as they deploy to Afghanistan. I'm told these soldiers will be gone about a year. When they return, the town says it hopes to have an ever bigger turnout.

CLICK HERE to see more video of the sendoff.