HAMMOND, La. — Mardi Gras is about to begin in earnest. Several satirical marching clubs navigated the narrow streets of the French Quarter this past weekend. Drums dominated the sound with rhythmic sensations that seem to reverberate in cadence with the marching groups. Blaring whistles echoed around wooden structures. Lights adorned costumes that illuminated the shadows to the delight and cheers of the crowd.

But on foggy Saturday morning on February16, the range of emotions were very different. In Hammond, more than 300 friends and family members sat in neat rows curved around a central podium in #1 hanger at the Louisiana National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility. Positioned in the back of the speakers podium was a large Blackhawk helicopter. It is the physical symbol of the unit. Members of Bravo and Delta company of the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion are being deployed.

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Louisiana National Guard Deployment from Hammond
Members of Bravo and Delta company of the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion are being deployed and said goodbye to their families and loved ones on Saturday, February 16.
Brian Lukas

Along parade routes, children climb onto their parent's shoulder screaming for beads and trinkets. The little things of value we clamor for the moment, soon forgotten as mere litter. In contrast, children attending the deployment ceremony in hanger#1 cling to their parents for a quiet embrace. Little girls and little boys stretch their small arms out for a hug. They seek only to catch a kiss goodbye, opting to save the moment of touch to last for a year, maybe a lifetime.

Many members deploying from Bravo and Delta Company joined the military after 9/11. They felt a duty to serve their country in a time of national crisis. Our nation needed them. September 11, 2001, seared horrific images of devastation in our memory. It was a terrible time. Many of the military personnel, deployed today, have already completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Louisiana National Guard Deployment - tears flow
Saturday morning, February 16, the families and crew members of the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion gathered, not to plan schedules around a weather-related emergencies, but to say their goodbyes
Brian Lukas

The Blackhawk pilots and crews of the Louisiana National Guard routinely serve the citizens of Louisiana. They aid and assist the state through natural and man-made disasters. In the recent backwater flooding of 2016, an unprecedented time of high water considered to be a 1,000-year flood event, one Blackhawk helicopter crew saved more than 400 people. In the days that followed, other Louisiana National Guard Pilots maneuvered their Blackhawks safely over hundreds of flooded residences. Their mission evolved into massive evacuation. Thousands were rescued by the crews flying these delicate aerial rescues.

But history does not linger for long, and memories seem to fade with time. Saturday morning, February 16, the families and crew members of the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion gathered, not to plan schedules around a weather-related emergencies, but to say their goodbyes

“The all look so young," a person in the audience remarked. “They are young, and always will be young," said another.

Governor John Bel Edwards spoke about their sacrifice to the nation and the State of Louisiana. Tears flowed freely when the Governor mentioned all the birthdays those deployed will miss. “The graduation ceremonies they will not attend, the baseball games and dancing recitals they will not be able to see. In this time of deployment many memories of life and living will be missed.” To an attentive audience Governor Edwards remarked, "The sacrifices they make are made for us so we may sleep well, and safe at night knowing they may be in harms way in the global fight on terrorism.”

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Louisiana National Guard Deployment - Families
Governor Edwards mentioned all the birthdays those deployed will miss. “The graduation ceremonies they will not attend, the baseball games and dancing recitals they will not be able to see. In this time of deployment many memories of life and living will be missed.”
Brian Lukas

Sacrifices are not only made by the military in deployment but also by their loved ones. Their shared duty of raising a family has now become a singular responsibility for the ones left behind.

The deployment ceremonies lasted just under one hour, many wished it could have lasted longer, much longer. Time moved quickly, but then, there is never enough time.

Bravo and Delta Company of the 1244th Assault Helicopter Battalion, of the Louisiana Army National Guard……be safe.