Salina National Guard troops on their way to Europe got a big send-off Monday from family, friends and officials.
Gov. Bill Graves noted the irony of the ceremony in Salina.
"Some of you may know that this is home for me," Graves said to 393 members of the Kansas Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 137th Infantry.
"It seems to me a bit of an irony that I've been able to come for an event where we say goodbye to so many of you."
Lt. Col. Danny Hay took command of the state's largest National Guard battalion in July 2001, promising soldiers a slower pace in the upcoming year.
Two months later, the surprise Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced a quick change of plans, Hay acknowledged.
"September 11 changed many things for all of us," Hay said. "It changed the promises I made. I made promises that this would be the year of the soldier, that we'd slow down so we could get caught up with our military education, and we'd be able to spend some time with our families to pay them back for the contributions they have made for us."
Kansas National Guard officials said the battalion has been assigned to perform security duties at several undisclosed locations in Europe.
The battalion will go to Fort Stewart, Ga., for training before heading to Europe, officials said.
The deployment ceremony was described by Kansas' adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner, as the state's official "hail and farewell."
"This is perhaps one of the few events in a person's life when there are so many conflicting emotions," Gardner said. "Whether you're a soldier or a family member, a colleague or employer, you may be filled with pride, worry, fear, concern or a sense of adventure."
About 500 family members attended the send-off ceremony, which included a buffet lunch for soldiers, their spouses and children.
Family members of departing soldiers had been preparing for the impending deployment for the last four weeks, including Lula Mullin, mother of Staff Sgt. Roy Brott, of Hutchinson.
"He's been in the reserve all his adult life and this is what he's dreamed for," Mullin said. "I'm awfully proud of him, but I'm scared, too."
Brott, who works as a manager at Hutchinson's Morton Salt Company, is the oldest of three brothers, Mullin said.
The deployment had been planned to begin Jan. 4, but it was held up because of delays at Fort Stewart, Kansas Adjutant General's Department spokeswoman Joy Moser said.