There wasn't one dry eye as families of the men and women serving in the 715th military police unit said their goodbyes. The 200 Melbourne-based troops departed for Afghanistan on Monday for their third tour of duty.
Family members, significant others and friends bid a teary farewell Monday morning as the unit loaded onto buses to the airport in Melbourne. From there, they'll travel to an air base in Texas for training before ultimately beginning their mission in the Middle East.
The unit will manage security on a military base in Afghanistan, but their exact mission is not public.
Sgt. Billy Shrader said it only gets harder.
"Last time I left I didn't have a family. I had my mom and grandparents but I didn't have a wife and baby."
The unit is headed off to Texas first and then to Afghanistan where they have been two times before. This time, they'll be away for about a year.
Dozens of motorcyclists accompanied the unit's buses, waving flags and garnering honks of support along the route. The bikers came from several groups, but the Patriot Guard riders organized the ride.
Gabby Aleman is in charge of keeping her mom and younger sister strong after her dad goes to war.
"I say I'm going to be good in school and that I'm gonna help mommy out and help my sister out."
Her dad, Commander Sgt. First Class Luis Aleman, says that although the unit's mission changes each deployment, his goal is always the same.
"My main job is to make sure they come back home," he said.
Many of the soldiers hope this tour will be their last, given the president's plan to withdrawal troops by the end of 2014.