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Sgt. William Simms gets a hug from his daughter Hope on Wednesday during a farewell ceremony for the 336th Financial Management Command. The unit of 38 soldiers is being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months. (Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

Sgt. William Simms gets a hug from his daughter Hope on Wednesday during a farewell ceremony for the 336th Financial Management Command. The unit of 38 soldiers is being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Emotional send-off for 336th Financial Management Command

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 6:55 PM

By Natalie Stewart / American Press

“The strength of a nation is in its Army; the strength of an Army is in its soldiers, and the strength of its soldiers is in their families,” Col. Robert Craft said Wednesday during a farewell ceremony.

The ceremony was a send-off for troops in the 336th Financial Management Command. The unit of 38 soldiers is being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months.

“I’m proud and humbled to lead this team of soldiers; we have a really strong team,” Craft said. “These families are loaning me their soldiers for the next (nine) months and I appreciate the support for the soldiers.”

More than 100 people attended the event, which Craft described as a time full of “mixed emotions.”

“We’re sad to leave our families, but we’re excited because we get to go practice the skill set that we’ve trained so hard for,” he said.

Mayor Randy Roach declared April 10, 2013 as 336th Financial Management Support Center Day in Lake Charles.

“We appreciate your service and your sacrifice for our nation,” Roach told the men and women in uniform. “Words cannot express what we feel in terms of our gratitude.”

Roach also thanked family members for their sacrifices.

“Words cannot express how we feel and how much appreciation and respect we have for you as members of the family,” he said to the audience. “We know that your sacrifice is as great as anyone else.”

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury also issued a proclamation to the unit.

“(These ceremonies) show the soldiers the support that the community has for them,” Craft said. “It’s an opportunity for the community to show their thanks and recognize the soldiers, and it keeps our service visible to the community. It benefits both the soldiers and the community.”

Col. Andre Sanders said the ceremonies also make the public aware of the unit’s existence.

“It makes (the community) aware; a lot of locals don’t even know that the unit is even here,” he said. “People are shocked when they hear that we’re deployed more than active duty units like us. It just goes to show how important the reserve component is also.”

Craft said since Sept. 11, 2001, the unit has been the most deployed of its type in the Army.

“We’ve always answered our nation’s call,” he added.

Lt. Col. Davien Heyward said the ceremony is more to bring families together to support each other while soldiers are deployed.

“It’s a way to bring family members together to show them that they’re not alone during this time when they’re away from their families,” he said. “It’s also to build a support system for families. They see other family members and build bonds. I think that’s the most important reason for these ceremonies. It’s not for us soldiers, it’s really for families to show their support for one another and for us to show our appreciation for them.”

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