553rd Casing Ceremony and Deployment
Story by Pvt. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office
August 31 was a busy day for Soldiers of the 553rd Corps Support Battalion. They awoke early, packed last minute personal items and tried to prepare themselves mentally for the long days ahead.
As the sun rose high into the Texas sky, the Soldiers gathered on the 13th Corps Support Command's guidon field. A small crowd - husbands, wives, children, parents and friends - joined the Soldiers in the blazing heat. A welcome breeze caused flags and guidons to wave softly in the wind.
Just before 10 a.m., the battalion was called to attention and present arms as the United States flag was removed from its protective cover. The 553rd's casing ceremony was about to begin.
Chaplain (Capt.) William J. Glenn stepped up to the podium to offer a brief yet sincere plea for God's protection for the troops who were leaving their families and friends to deploy to the place of our nation's most recent conflict. His voice cracked slightly as he struggled with his emotions. He, too, had to say goodbye to those he loves.
"I said 'bye to the older kids last night," Glenn said just before the ceremony began. "All that's left now is the wife, baby and mother-in-law."
Glenn's eyes grew misty as he recalled his farewell with the children he is leaving behind. He cried a bit, he admitted, turning away slightly as if he should somehow be ashamed of the love he feels for his family.
Now he stood in front of another group of people he loves - Soldiers, both young and old, who are willing to make great sacrifices for their country.
The ceremony, as Glenn's prayer, was not long or drawn out. The national anthem was played with Soldiers saluting and civilians standing at respectful attention. Cameras threw bursts of blue light on the field as Soldiers and guests alike captured history as the 553rd colors were displayed, then rolled tenderly by Lt. Col. John Waller, 553rd commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Daryl L. Williams, 553rd command sergeant major. Less than half an hour after the ceremony commenced, it was over and Soldiers dispersed to say their final good-byes to the ones they love.
Kieshnick Physical Fitness Center was soon converged upon by the deploying Soldiers and those who came to see them off. Children tried on their parents' gear, pausing briefly to pose for photos with huge grins spread across their faces.
Two such children were Caleb J. Dinsmore and Tyler Litchfield. Sgt. Robert W. Dinsmore smiled as his son and stepson struggled into equipment that was much too big for them. Caleb hefted his father's protective vest onto his shoulders while Tyler peeked out from under a helmet that rocked back and forth on his head.
Across the basketball court, Spc. Hlee Magro laughed as her son tried his best to keep Magro's Kevlar helmet on his head while holding onto his mother's M16A2. Magro's husband and other two children smiled and gathered for a family photo before the bus came to take Magro to the next chapter in her military career.
It was after noon before that bus came, pulling up outside the fitness center and waiting with air condition going full blast. Soldiers filed out of the gym, making their way past the group of well-wishers and loved ones.
As their boots touched the first step and they began their ascent into the unknown, they seemed somehow more than Soldiers. They were men and women, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. They were ordinary people with ordinary emotions going half a world away to do extraordinary things.