131st Aviation Regiment Deploys

President Bush spent a good portion of his State of the Union address last night defending America's action in Iraq. Bush acknowledged many opposed the war, but said that leaving Saddam Hussein in power would have had serious consequences.

President Bush said his administration is successfully fighting terrorism, but the US still faces the threat of an attack. "As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and -women are deployed across the world in the war on terror," the President said. "By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure."

Those words are hitting home as today, more than a hundred members of the Georgia Army National Guard at Hunter left for Afghanistan. The 131st Aviation Regiment usually deploys to help with disaster relief from hurricanes and wildfires. But now they're on a very different mission. WTOC was there as they said goodbye to their families this morning.

Everyone has tears in their eyes when it's time to go. These soldiers were no exception. They'll be gone for at least a year, and missing a lot of important events in their families' lives. But one soldier will be missing a lot of it three times over. Christopher, Amber and Katelyn Hartman have no idea how much Daddy is going to miss them.

"My triplets are eight months old," Capt. Steve Hartman said. "They say children will change you and I'm here as a testament to that--they do change you."

Capt. Hartman will miss his triplets' first steps, first words and first birthday. His unit will train for at least a month at Fort Benning before deploying to Afghanistan.

"I'm very proud of him, very proud," said wife Pam. "I just hate that he's leaving these three babies."

With her husband expected to be gone at least a year, Pam will definitely have more than her hands full. "It's very hard," she said. "I don't really have a lot of help. At least they're sleeping all night, but I'm going to lose an extra set of hands."

Pam's 13-year-old daughter is a big help, but as they watch the soldiers board the buses and start up the Chinooks, she knows they won't really feel better until their husband and father comes back home.

The 131st is expected back in March, 2005.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com