Florida governor lauds deploying National Guard Soldiers on step of Historic Capitol

Written by  //  May 26, 2009  //  Feature Stories

TALLAHASSEE (May 26, 2009) — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist took to the steps of the state’s Historic Capitol building Tuesday morning and honored nearly 200 of the state’s Soldiers preparing to deploy to Iraq.

The Governor, along with Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, paid tribute to Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard’s 779th Engineer Battalion, during a departure ceremony for the unit before it departed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Standing on the steps of Florida's Historic Capitol building, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (right) addresses Soldiers from the Florida National Guard's 779th Engineer Battalion during a departure ceremony in the courtyard of the Capitol in Tallahassee, May 26, 2009. The Soldiers were preparing for a deployment to Iraq. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

“The men and women of the Florida National Guard are the best of the best,” Gov. Crist told the Soldiers assembled in the courtyard between the Capitol and Florida’s Historic Capitol.

The governor added that the National Guard has always been ready when called upon for either state or federal missions, and the Soldiers of the 779th were continuing a legacy of “patriotic, selfless service” in Florida.

“Our nation has the most capable and courageous military on the face of the planet,” he said. “The men and women of our military make sacrifices to serve us, spend time away from family and loved ones, (and) answer the call to service to put themselves in harm’s way when needed. You are truly heroes – extraordinary heroes – and I thank you for that.”

Hundreds of friends, family, and civilian and military dignitaries filled the courtyard around the assembled Soldiers, cheering for the Tallahassee-based unit. After the ceremony the Soldiers left for Fort McCoy, Wis., for additional training before departing to Southwest Asia.

Commander of the 779th Engineer Battalion Lt. Col. Dwayne Jarriel also addressed his unit before their departure, letting them know their military leaders were confident in the Soldiers’ training and professionalism.

“We have total confidence in your ability as Soldiers to do our mission in a combat zone and come back successfully to our family and friends,” Jarriel said.

Soldiers taking part in the deployment predominantly live in Tallahassee, Lake City, Middleburg, Perry, Starke, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Gainesville and other north Florida cities.