National Guard unit says good-bye to family, departs


There were 160 members of the California National Guard's 870th Military Police Company sang the Army song at their farewell ceremony. Mervin Ledford watched as his 26-year-old son, Josh, got his marching orders -- a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

"It's something that he's wanted to do ever since 9/11," said Mervin.

Josh was still in high school on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I joined the Army to serve my country and well, the best way to serve it is to go help defend it and make sure there's peace," said Josh.

Josh says that's pretty much the attitude of everyone in the company.

"Why join if you're not willing to go?" said Josh.

Seven years ago, members of the same company prepared for their first deployment to Iraq. Back then, the equipment wasn't as good as the regular Army and neither was the moral. The military had to institute a stop-loss policy to keep troops from leaving. A lot has changed since then says the company commander, Capt. James Smith.

"The biggest difference is that we are extremely highly trained and also we have the latest and greatest technologies and equipment that the active component army has," said Smith.

And the men and women who have enlisted since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq signed up knowing that war was part of the deal.

"During the summertime, we knew that it was for sure that they were going to be going," said Nancy Vongchanh, Josh's fiancé.

Vongchanh admits she's upset about his going; she's going to be left alone caring for his daughter and her two young children for a year.

"I kind of pretend it's not happening, but everyday it kind of hits me. But God created him to be a soldier and I know he's going to be a good one so that's all that matters," said Vongchanh.

Josh's dad says he is impressed with the company's officers.

"They've got combat experience. I'm sure he's in the most capable hands that God could put him in right now," said Mervin.

Still, the former Air Force sergeant had a few words of advice.

"Don't forget to duck, do what you're told in combat, and don't volunteer," said Mervin.

Some things don't change in the military.

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