Sunday, August 24 2014 12:56 AM EDT2014-08-24 04:56:42 GMT
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CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (WATE) -- There was no camouflaging the anticipation in the air as the first unit of soldiers from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment prepared to leave Camp Shelby, Mississippi for their deployment in Iraq.
One by one, soldiers checked their bags and removed their caps for a pre-journey prayer.
Among those in prayer was First Sgt. Bill Walker, of White Pine. For the past 27 years, he's served with the military. For the last eight years, he's served as principal at White Pine School.
As he awaited his departure, he said he thought of his family and his students. He also said he was very anxious and ready to get started. "Today is a good day. We finally get to start the next step and it's the step that's closer to the end."
Officer Kelly Copeland, of Knoxville, was among the soldiers who were bussed home for the holidays in December.
At the time, I interviewed his three small children, who said they could barely sleep the night before their father arrived home.
As he departed for his deployment, Copeland's mind was on his mission, but his heart was still home with his little ones. "I'm excited and ready to get the mission started so we can do what we came to do and get back home to our families."
Staff Sgt. Michael Couch spent his last moments at Camp Shelby thinking of his family back home in Seymour.
Although he wasn't exactly looking forward to the 18 hour flight overseas, once he got to his destination, he knew he'd be just fine.
"I think I'm in good hands. We watch out for each other," Staff Sgt. Couch said.
As the final bags were checked, the soldiers could be heard saying, "God bless you all. See you in the sand."