Brooke Jasek, 6, dressed head to toe in red, white and blue, practiced taking video Sunday on a camcorder she received for Christmas. For the next year, the videos she takes will be how her father, Sgt. Henry Jasek Jr., will see her grow up.
Jasek, 29, of Boonville, was one of more than 200 soldiers in the New York Army National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, who left for Kuwait.
“It makes me feel sad,” Brooke said at a deployment ceremony on Sunday at the Utica Armory. “But I’m proud because he’s protecting us.”
Her brother Braiden, 1, sat with his mother, 27-year-old Amanda Jasek, at the ceremony. Though he showed his support with a T-shirt that said, “I’m proud my daddy is in the Army,” he is too young to understand why his daddy is leaving, Amanda Jasek said.
This is the second time Amanda Jasek has seen her husband deploy. The last time was in 2004.
“It’s more emotional now,” she said. Though she remained strong throughout the ceremony, several tears escaped down her cheeks. “It’s been rough.”
She said she worries about how the children will fair without their father.
Hundreds of other families also attended the event, showing not only their love for the leaving soldiers, but their support for one another.
Like Jasek, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Hemphill, 31, of Syracuse, also was surrounded by his loved ones, including his wife, Elizabeth, and sons Blake, 4, and Caden, 17 months.
“Not only is this a great way for us to say good-bye to our families, but also to show how much we appreciate them,” Hemphill said about the ceremony. “Spouses, children and families are the backbone of us and this would not be possible without their love and support. No matter where we’re going — we know its harder back home.”
Hemphill said it’s especially difficult for spouses left home alone with children.
“Even though my wife is one of the strongest people I know, being alone — it’s going to be a lot more difficult,” he said.
The soldiers are part of a group of 1,800 from across the state who will head to Camp Shelby, Miss., before serving in support of security operations in Kuwait.
They were wished well by several officials including U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R - Barneveld, and State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R - Rome.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the state adjutant general, described the ceremony as a cause for celebration. It’s the first day counting down to the end when the soldiers come back, he said.
“We are ready. We are trained. We are moving forward,” he said.