FORT HOOD, Texas - While many Soldiers here go to the Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center at 6:30 a.m., about 100 Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division came to say good-bye to friends and family before departing for Iraq.
These departing Soldiers are not from just one unit, and they aren't all going to the same place in Iraq - they're going to be joining their units, who are already set up there.
There are many reasons why these Soldiers leave home after their unit deployed. Some weren't yet assigned to Fort Hood, while others, like Pfc. Harry Minteer, a construction equipment operator with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, had medical problems and couldn't deploy with the rest of his unit.
Minteer needed surgery on his knee in November, about the same time his unit left for Iraq. After a painful recovery process, Minteer is ready to join his fellow Soldiers in Iraq.
"They're just like my second family," Minteer said.
Minteer is excited to go to Iraq and do his job, yet anxious because the hardest part of deploying for him is leaving behind his wife and a 6-month-old daughter.
He plans to keep in touch with his wife, Christine, through instant messaging and said there are plenty of friends and family nearby to help his wife through the deployment.
One Soldier, Spc. Jose Flores, a combat engineer with Company E, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, admitted to being nervous about leaving his family.
Flores' son, Josea Adrian, will turn 2 years old in May, and doesn't yet understand where his Dad is going, and why.
"Basically, I'm ready," Flores said. The last good-byes marked the beginning of Flores' second tour in Iraq, both of them with the First Team