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Guard troops, families honored at deployment ceremony

Members of the Patriot Guard thanked the soldiers of Charlie Battery as they left the deployment program at the Morris Area Elementary School on Saturday. Photo by Morris Sun-Tribune

MORRIS - Supporters filled the Morris Area Elementary gymnasium Saturday for a send-off for local troops headed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Some 560 soldiers with the Minnesota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion 151st Artillery are being deployed to the Middle East. The soldiers are deploying from units in Montevideo, Olivia, Appleton, Marshall, Madison, Morris and Ortonville.

The event, lasting about 45 minutes, was filled with words of support and encouragement for the soldiers, their families, employers and communities.

The program featured remarks by Major General Larry Shellito, Minnesota's Adjutant General, First Lady Mary Pawlenty, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Charlie Battery Commander Capt. David Johannson

Gov. Pawlenty told the soldiers that the saying, "freedom isn't free," but he added that "not everybody pays the same price. The individuals sitting in front of us are willing to pick up heavier lift and the family members are willing to carry a heavier load a longer distance for the cause and price of freedom. We are grateful and respectful for that."

The troops will be led by Lt. Col. Scott St. Sauver. The Minnesota troops will be part of a 2,900-soldier brigade with soldiers from units in Wyoming, South Dakota, Alabama and Colorado.

In announcing the deployment, St. Sauver said that about 400 to 450 of the Minnesota soldiers will be directly involved with convoy escort service, while the remainder will serve in command, maintenance, communication and other missions at Camp Virginia.

The troops are scheduled to leave Minnesota on April 19.