About 400 servicemen and women of the 155th Brigade Special Troops Battalion Unit of the Mississippi National Guard gathered with loved ones at East Central Community College to gain support for their upcoming deployment to Iraq.
"The biggest thing is we're here for that solider and that soldier's family," said Captain Joe Hardman of the Mississippi National Guard.
It's the Yellow Ribbon Program and Captain Hardman serves as program director. He says the Yellow Ribbon Program is the support system before, during and after deployment for both the solider and the soldier's families. The program brings all the resources available to soldiers like mental health counseling and employment rights briefings all under one roof.
"We want the families to know where they can get support while their soldiers is gone oversees and this is the vehicle to that these yellow ribbon events," said Hardman.
Captain Hardman says the yellow ribbon program is in every state in the country and is funded by the National Defense Budget and it provides direct contact with families.
"Most program have pamphlets, fliers and they have phone numbers, but there's no substitute for an actual person," said Hardman.
And that support system is exactly what Mary Davis says spouses and relatives need during deployments.
"And it's just hard, very hard," said Mary Davis, wife of Sgt. First Class Earl Davis.
Mary Davis is the wife of Sgt. First Class Earl Davis. This is second deployment during their 10 year marriage. They share two grown daughters and Mrs. Davis says it's a challenge during the deployment but the yellow ribbon program provides a strong support system for families.
"You get to comfort one of another and you get to meet women that you have things in common with and you get to come in contact with a lot of people and you get to share a lot of things," said Mary Davis.
But Sgt. Davis says the focus has to be on the mission.
"We gotta focus on what we got to do, go and get it done and get back," said Earl Davis.
Sgt. Davis says as the unit heads to Iraq in May and stay for a year, they keep their loved ones close in their hearts and minds.