By Capt. Titus Firmin/Kansas Army National Guard
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and National Guard leaders from Kansas and Missouri gathered at the 35th Infantry Division’s Headquarters for a hybrid departure ceremony for soldiers and their loved ones Jan. 22 at Fort Leavenworth.
About 50 service members and officials gathered in person at the headquarters building to support soldiers and families as the Kansas- and Missouri-based units deploy to Southwest Asia for one year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Spartan Shield, while the ceremony was live-streamed to soldiers and their families because of COVID-19 precautions due to recent case increases.
Ceremony speakers included Kelly and State Adjutant Generals Maj. Gen. Levon Cumpton of Missouri and Maj. Gen. David Weishaar of Kansas, and included a statement from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. Maj. Gen. William Blaylock II, 35th ID commander, thanked the governors for their support as well as Cumpton and Weishaar for assisting the 35th ID prepare for the deployment.
“To the families we will do the utmost to take care of your soldier and show trust by showing respect, integrity and taking care of each other,” Blaylock said. Blaylock faced the formation, saluted, then shouted, “Win the day!” The soldiers stood at attention and
responded, “Santa Fe!”
“Thank you for your sacrifice and representing Kansas and Missouri. I want you to know that I understand, and how much I appreciate it,” Kelly said after sharing that her father deployed to Korea with the National Guard. “You have chosen a life of service to your nation, state, and community.”
Cumpton said the unit is in the best of hands.
“You are skilled professionals for the job,” Cumpton said. “This mission is vital to our national security, our allies and the stability of the region.”
Wieshaar thanked the soldiers and their families for the hardships they have endured.
“I stand here humbled by the training and effort the soldiers and families of the 35th Infantry Division have demonstrated,” Weishaar said. “It is indicative of our Kansas values and work ethic.