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Community supports hundreds of Iowa soldiers’ departures to Middle East

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa National Guard deploying troops this weekend to the middle east, improvised a modified send-off due to COVID-19.

The coronavirus restricts families and friends coming in attendance to the "Ironman Battalion" send-off. The National Guard suggested a live-stream of the send-off, along with a parade route following the troops out of Waterloo.

This will be the battalion's fifth deployment since the year 2000. The battalion is located in seven communities in Iowa representing over 700 troops.

Lt. Col. Garrett Gingrich is the Ironman Battalion Commander. Gingrich works as a firefighter for the City of Waterloo, this will be his fourth deployment.

"This is incredibly important, these are all soldiers that live, work, and serve here in eastern Iowa. They want to make eastern Iowa proud, and they want to do a good job, and that's what they signed up for," Gingrich said.

Aside from livestreams, support pours in through parade routes. Patriot Guard Rider Bret Ford, a Marine Core Veteran, escorted the troops out of Waterloo. Ford says social distancing is not his priority right now.

"For me that's not on the top of the list today, showing honor, and respect to these guys is really the priority for me today," Ford said.

There are many lining the streets, showing support from afar. For Nashua native, 22-Year-Old Austin Ferch, this is his first deployment.

"We've got somebody out there that's in our family standing up for freedom, and sacrificing everything to let everybody else be free in America. It makes us so proud," Ferch's uncle, Travis Schweiger said.

Other send-off ceremonies took place in Dubuque, Iowa City, Iowa Falls, Davenport, Le Mars and Johnston.

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Vinny Lowerre

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