War in Afghanistan
8:13 am
Sat March 31, 2012

Emotional send-off as 4,000 Northwest soldiers deploy to Afghanistan

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 12:00 am

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Nearly four thousand Northwest-based soldiers are about to deploy for nine months to Afghanistan. The Army’s 2nd Stryker Brigade received a formal send off Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. The departure comes amid continuing fallout from the case of suspected Afghan shooter Sgt. Robert Bales.

As an Army band played, soldiers in fatigues lined up by battalion on a parade field. In the stands sat, proud and worried family members like Wendy Mertka. She fought back tears as she spoke of her son’s first deployment.

“I’m not happy about him going, but I knew when he joined up it would happen,” she says.

Adding to her anxiety: the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. He’s the Lewis-McChord soldier charged with massacring Afghan villagers.

“With what just happened over there I’m very scared for these guys because they’re more upset over there now than what they were.”

Mertka’s son, Josh, is assigned to a Stryker vehicle. He says commanders have drilled into them one word: discipline.

“Discipline as far as respecting Afghans," he says. "We have to respect them as humans too."

The 2nd Brigade has adopted a motto: “seize the high ground.”

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

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