HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Around 500 Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division were honored Saturday at the Zembo Shrine before they deploy to the Middle East for Operation Spartan Shield.
“I want to thank you for your bravery, for your sacrifice, for your devotion to your fellow citizens,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said at the departure ceremony.
One of those brave people is Executive Ofc. Kenneth Swartzell.
“I had a desire to join when I was 17 years old,” Swartzell said. “My emotions are mixed. I’m very excited to go and do a mission on behalf of Pennsylvania and on behalf of the Army but have a little bit of anxiety and nervousness leaving family, friends, and the community.”
“I just feel worried about everyone being safe because you never know,” said Kathleen Swartzell, Kenneth’s wife.
Kathleen will have to take care of the couple’s children, three-year-old Hope, and five-year-old Kenneth.
“It’s about keeping up my energy with two young kids and working full time and everything. That’s tough. I’m just trying to stay positive for myself and the kids,” Kathleen said.
The mission is to provide command support to thousands of troops, and it’s expected to last one year.
“I know that emotions are running high,” Spec. Brooke King said.
King got engaged on Christmas Eve.
“I was definitely surprised, but it definitely made me pretty happy. It made me feel better about going overseas,” King said.
“Hopefully everyone takes care of each other, and we’re all back here in a year and celebrating their return home,” Kathleen Swartzell said.
The PA National Guard will provide support to families while their loved ones are deployed overseas.