Spc. Ryan Roussell of Huntsville and Spc. David Allen of Madison have something they are taking with them to Iraq that will remind them of home in Alabama.

They are taking each other.

The two Reserve Soldiers have been friends since they were little boys. Now, they are marching off together to join in overseas contingency operations as members of the Reserve's 375th Engineering Company based in Huntsville.

Both single, the two Soldiers are looking forward to seeing a different part of the world, serving their country while wearing the uniform and making a difference in the lives of people who have lived through war, death and destruction. They will be among 180 Soldiers who will deploy to Iraq for a year to join efforts in rebuilding forward operating bases, and community buildings and infrastructure.

"I'm ready for it and I'm excited. I'm ready to go and do what needs to be done for the country and come back safe," Roussell said, as his family surrounded him following a deployment ceremony for the 375th at Butler High School on April 11.

"It's good," said his grandfather, 84-year-old Bill Roussell, a World War II veteran. "He wouldn't be satisfied unless he went over there. He's been a Soldier for two years and this is what he needs to do."

Though the mood among Roussell family members was celebratory following the deployment ceremony, they do worry about the deployment to a war zone.

"We are scared for him," said dad, Tim Roussell. "It's a frightening experience. They'll all be in danger. But at the same time, we're proud of him. This is a proud moment."

The family takes some comfort in knowing their Soldier will serve alongside his best friend.

"I couldn't go to war without my best friend," Ryan Roussell said.

"We'll duck together. When I duck, he'll duck," added Allen.

All joking aside, the two Soldiers appreciated the community support at the deployment ceremony. They and the rest of the Soldiers of the 375th left the ceremony with several other reminders of home to take with them to Iraq.

Besides cheers of support, prayers and memories of a patriotic ceremony, each Soldier was also given a freedom pen made at the Arts & Crafts Center and presented by Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli. They were each given a coin from the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter Association of the U.S. Army, a coin from the Patriot Guard Riders and a commendation from the Alabama Senate.

"As plumbers, electricians, carpenters and masons, you will provide construction support in Iraq," said state Sen. Tom Butler. "Over half of you are from Madison County and you represent the largest unit to deploy from the Huntsville area since the War on Terrorism began."

The unit was also given a resolution from the state House of Representatives and a yellow Patriot Guard Riders flag that was presented to their commanding officer, 1st Lt. David Borders.

"I have a conditional gift I need to present," said Robert "Gator" Collins, who represented the local chapter of Patriot Guard Riders during the ceremony. "This gift is based on returning. It's a somewhat tattered Patriot Guard flag that's flown on several missions of the Patriot Guard. I am loaning it to you today. I want you to bring it back and we will reclaim it."

Borders gladly accepted the flag on behalf of the unit, saying it is a "privilege and an honor" to represent the 375th, which has drawn Soldiers from places like Knoxville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, Cleveland and New York City to fill the ranks in the Huntsville-based unit.

Describing the unit's Soldiers as motivated, selfless and courageous, Borders said "we've been allowed to get the best training. We will go now to complete that training and get ready for the long road ahead."

The unit is now at Fort McCoy, Wis., where they will undergo a few more weeks of training before deploying to Iraq in mid-May or early June.

The deployment ceremony, hosted by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA, included several community leaders who spoke words of support and encouragement to the Soldiers and the standing-room-only 750-plus audience.

"It makes me very proud as a Huntsvillian to see so many people here to see our warriors turn out," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle told the Soldiers and audience members. He also told military families that they will have the support of Huntsville during the deployment.

"We are here for you and I mean that from the sincerest of my heart," added Pastorelli. "When a Soldier goes into combat, it is the responsibility of the U.S. Army, the U.S. government and our country to provide your families the support they need."

Jim McCamy, district director for Rep. Parker Griffith, told the audience that Griffith was returning that very day from a trip to the Middle East where he discussed defense-related topics and where he made "sure you have all the equipment you need."

McCamy read a letter from Griffith in which the congressman said "you risk your lives for our safety. You are rebuilding a war-torn country and you are helping to bring stability to the region."

While the engineer Soldiers hope to have a positive impact on the Iraqi people during their mission, the deployment will also have an impact on their own lives. Though separation from family and friends can be difficult, serving during a deployment can also be a learning and growing experience for the Soldier and their family, said Maj. Wendy Rodriguez, the 844th Engineer Battalion Family Readiness liaison.

"If this is your first deployment, you can gain so much knowledge and pride in doing your job," Rodriguez said. "And, to the families, keep communication positive and be resilient. The hardest thing is picking up the pieces while your Soldier is gone. But having a positive outlook will enhance your relationship."

Rebekah Galinat has already set up a web cam at home so that her husband, Spc. Mark Galinat, can get a daily view of the couple's son, 19-month-old Jacob, as he grows from toddlerhood to childhood during the deployment. The couple will also rely on the Internet and letters to keep communication lines open.

Galinat, a carpenter, said the deployment is good for his family because of the current economic situation in their hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn. But he didn't expect to feel like a hero at the deployment ceremony.

"To know that so many people care really makes you feel great," he said.

Other speakers during the ceremony were retired Col. Mike Howell, president of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA, and retired Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. John Perry, who, along with his wife, was the family readiness group liaison when his son deployed with the 375th some four years ago, and the unit's 1st Sgt. Daryl Owens, known as "Papa Bear." Patriotic music was sung during the ceremony by members of the Butler High choir and vocalist Caleb Clark of Birmingham-Southern College. The Butler High School JROTC served as color guard.

Also during the ceremony, state Rep. Howard Sanderford, representing a delegation that included state Reps. Randy Hinshaw, Butch Taylor and Laura Hall, presented a commemoration to the ceremony's emcee, retired National Guard Sgt. David Carney, for his dedication to public service.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16