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"Serve us proudly, but come home safely": Virginia National Guard hosts departure ceremony for soldiers, loved ones

Task Force Red Dragon is the largest task force the Virginia National Guard has deployed since World War II.

BEDFORD, Va. — More than 1,000 members of the Virginia and Kentucky Army National Guard were present with their loved ones for a departure ceremony in Bedford, Virginia, and Lexington, Kentucky, respectively today as they prepare to go overseas. 

Active duty Army National Guard members will be a part of Task Force Red Dragon, which is set to be a part of a Combined Joint Task Force for security missions in the Horn of Africa - one of the most dangerous parts of the world. 

The force will be under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. 

“The sacrifices of the 29th Infantry Division and 116th Infantry Regiment on Omaha Beach are represented so strongly here at this memorial,” said Lt. Col. James P.  Tierney, the commander of Task Force Red Dragon. 

“Those Soldiers wrote one of the most honored chapters in history by securing the beachhead in France. These were ordinary Virginia Guardsmen who stayed true to the values of personal responsibility, duty and honor. Their sacrifice ensured the freedoms our Republic has held dear for more than 240 years.”

Participating units in Virginia are from Bedford, Charlottesville, Lexington, Pulaski and Suffolk. 

The ceremony was held at The National D-Day Memorial to honor the 116th Infantry Regiment's connection to and sacrifice for one of the most significant battles in the history of the United States. 

Task Force Red Dragon is the largest task force the Virginia National Guard has deployed since World War II. 

“I have a simple ask of all of you,” Governor Ralph Northam said to the soldiers. “That is to serve this commonwealth and serve this country proudly. I know you will. I ask you all to take care of each other. I have been in your shoes, and it is so important it is to take care of your fellow Soldiers. Serve us proudly, but come home safely. That’s what we want for all of you.”

“Execute all missions, no matter how complex or trivial, knowing that you represent those who went before you,”  Lt. Col. Tierney said.

 “Maintain the disciplined and aggressive ethos we’ve developed to date. Be the Soldier everyone wants in his or her squad. Be the steadfast NCO that in times of need, all look to for guidance. Be the leader Soldiers want to be lead by. Do that, and we will return to Virginia to celebrate our accomplishments.”

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