GRANITE FALLS, N.C. -- Dozens of North Carolina National Guard soldiers prepared to say good-bye to family and friends in Granite Falls Saturday, before heading to Egypt for a peacekeeping mission that’s been sustained for more than 30 years.
The soldiers of the 630th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion are part of the Multinational Force and Observers that watch the Egypt-Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula as part of the historic treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. The special force was created after the United Nations refused to provide a group to enforce the treaty.
Since the Arab Spring, however, things have gotten tense on the border and peacekeeping missions are more critical. The strength of the decades-old treaty has been questioned.
“We know that because we're there, it is a better place,” U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows told the deploying soldiers and their families.
Meadows said he recently spoke to the ambassador in Egypt, who told him this: “We need to make sure they understand that Americans see this as a critical place, not just for Egypt, but for Israel and for democracy, and for the great American way,” according to Meadows.
An officer shared words of encouragement. “You're willing to do whatever it takes it order to preserve and protect all the freedoms we enjoy,” he said, while acknowledging the sacrifices made by families left behind.
“Every single one of you represent what is so good in our way of life,” he said.
Specialist Robert Rockhill knows it won’t be easy being gone. He has to go to some stateside training, then deploy overseas. In all, he will be gone close to a year.
“I'm leaving a lot of family behind and I know they're all going to miss me and I'm going to miss them especially,” he said. “But it's also hard on them just as its hard on me, because I'm the one that's leaving.”