WARE, Mass. – Family, friends, state officials, and military leaders gathered at Ware Junior/Senior High School here Saturday to bid farewell and good luck to 130 Soldiers of the Massachusetts National Guard’s 747th Military Police Company, and the Headquarters Detachment, 211th Military Police Battalion.
The Guard members will deploy to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to conduct detainee operations.
The gymnasium walls, adorned with dozens of championship banners, housed an appropriate environment for such an occasion, said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard.
“Fate is a funny thing. It has brought us here on this day and at this time. As we look around, we see that we are surrounded by this community of champions,” Rice said as he glanced around the gym and noted the numerous banners. He then addressed the deploying Guard members and said, “You represent champions in our midst. You are heroes among us.”
The general’s remarks provoked a thundering applause, as the well-wishers showered the deploying Soldiers with a lengthy standing ovation.
“This is the home team right here,” said Col. Richard Johnson, 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Commander, as he pointed to the families of the deploying Soldiers. “Our family remains strong because we all understand what this is about. The more difficult job is the one at home. Concentrating on the mission down range is made easier because this group – the families – will excel together.”
“You just never get used to this,” said Carol Pagnoni, mother of Spc. Matthew Boucher, whom, Pagnoni said, is deploying for the third time. “I just pray and keep the faith that he’ll be fine and return safe.”
The Guantanamo Bay operation represents the third time the 747th has been deployed since the terror attacks of 9/11. The unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and again to Iraq in July, 2009 to July 2010.