Inside Lexington High School's gymnasium Saturday morning, about 150 soldiers of the SC National Guard’s 122nd Engineer Battalion gathered with family and friends — sheltered from the cold and light drizzle outside — for the unit's departure ceremony and casing of the colors.
During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, South Carolina's Adjutant General, called on the crowd to sing "Happy Birthday" to a little girl named Ashlyn whose birthday was Saturday.
The reason for the song, Livingston said, was to emphasize that all those attending the ceremony were their family.
"This is about protecting the people of our great United States," Livingston said.
While the soldiers are the heroes of this country, Livingston called the families their heroes for their support.
The soliders will travel to Texas for training before departing for Afghanistan where they will spend about a year training Afghan National Army (ANA) Engineer units.
The unit will also perform construction and deconstruction operations, and conduct route clearance in order to support the drawdown of U.S. Forces, according to SC National Guard officials.