FORT WORTH — Outside the old Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, hundreds of soldiers — surrounded by family members — prepared to say goodbye on Sunday.
But this is not just any day for an overseas deployment; it's Father's Day, and there was no shortage of tears — especially for Stephanie Forward.
"Ya'll gonna make me cry," she said, frantically fanning her face. "Stop!"
Forward watched a short but elaborate ceremony honoring her son-in-law as well as hundreds of comrades with the U.S. Army National Guard 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment. She said the toughest part was that the deployment happened on a day set aside to honor dad.
"I'm proud and I'm emotional, but I know he's going to be fine," Forward said about her son-in-law, Army Spc. Davon Robinson. His regiment is headed for Afghanistan. They will be there for a full year.
This is Robinson's first deployment. "I'm happy to serve with this unit," he said. "It's a great unit."
To cheer up the troops, family members greeted soldiers with applause. They watched as luxury buses unloaded four female and several hundred male service members.
One of the battalion's leaders beamed with pride. "The outpouring of support from the families and what they see today give them a great boost for what they are going to do," said Maj. Gen. James K. Brown.
The brief ceremony included a message of inspiration; a lot of praise; and then final farewells.
This is the second deployment for Lorinda Starkey's husband. She said it is never easy.
"It's hard. It's crazy," she said. "You just gotta take it one day at a time and pray about it."
Sgt. Tanerrius Robinson, who is spending his first Father's Day away from his son, hopes his service to Operation Enduring Freedom will pass quickly and that he returns home safely.
"I'm just ready to go ahead and get it over with," he said. "The minute we step foot in the country, we start counting down and counting those days off the calendar".