Nearly 200 National Guard troops based in Hartselle will deploy on Tuesday. On Sunday afternoon, thousands filled Hartselle's Sparkman Civic Center for an emotional deployment ceremony.
As National Guard unit 152 filed into the building, soldiers were met by a thunderous applause.
Julia and David Godfrey came to support their 26 year-old son, deploying with his unit to Qatar for a security mission.
Julia Godfrey says, "I don't think it'll hit me until we're actually saying goodbye, and then it's gonna be hard." Her husband, David Godfrey, adds, "I'm just very proud of him and what he's doing, it's a great thing. It's going to be a great experience in his life."
Ramping up for his first deployment, Ross Godfrey is carrying on a family legacy. David Godfrey explains, "My father's 89 years old, he flew aircraft in WWII."
Patriots of all ages waved their flags, hearts swollen with love and appreciation.
U.S. Army Brigadier General David Brown says, "Today was a typical example of what the communities in Alabama do, the outpouring of support we have is just, you know it's incredible."
But beneath many of the smiles lay anxiety.
Army Specialist Shane Bower is Brianne Bower's brother, and Brittany Ransom's boyfriend. The two came out to show their support, along with several other family members. Ransom says, "I'm scared for him to go." Brianne Bower adds, "Kinda nervous, but I don't know. It's gonna be hard."
Shane Bower got the news of his deployment a year ago, giving his girlfriend and sister plenty of time to worry. But it also gave them time to design shirts for the whole family to wear at the ceremony. Ransom says, "We're surprising him."
After the ceremony, reality set in. For many of these military families, the year-long deployment will be hard, even heartbreaking.
But in the long run, David Godfrey knows this mission, miles away from home, will help his son accomplish so much more.
He explains, "Young men need to get out and do these kinds of things, support their country, and see how the rest of the world lives, do what they can to help."
We're told the troops are set to leave Hartselle around 8 o'clock Tuesday morning. Residents are encouraged to come out to Main Street to show their support.