They led the charge into Baghdad, now the Third Infantry Division is deploying for a new mission. On Saturday night, more than a thousand soldiers said goodbye to their families and friends before deploying from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. This is the Third I.D.'s second tour of duty in Iraq and although they're focusing on the mission, many are already thinking about the best part of it: coming home.
In their last moments on American soil this year, soldiers took time to pray, play some cards, listen to music and grab some snacks for the road, before the long road ahead.
"Everyone just really doesn't want to think about it," explained Private First Class Nicholas Ramsey. "Even on the bus ride here, if one of the guys would mention something about Iraq, someone would say, look, let's not talk about it. Let's not talk about Iraq right now. Let's talk about something else. Let's talk about when we get home."
Still, Ramsey says this is his first deployment and he's excited about his mission. "The massive American effort to help the Iraqi people. I just wanted to be a part of it," he said. "It's history. It's going to go down in the record books."
Specialist Steven Tucker says it will be a different job from their first deployment to Iraq. "Now, we're trying to rebuild and set up a new chain of command," Tucker added, "so they can implement new laws and possibly give the Iraqis more of the freedoms they deserve."
Private First Class Stephanie Armwood knows this deployment won't be like anything she's ever experienced before. "The biggest thing is being away from your family for so long," she admitted. "A lot of the soldiers have already been over there and they're not too worried about it. We had enough training to prepare ourselves. We're confident that we're going to go and come back."
As they leave their loved ones behind to help the countless families in Iraq they have never met, they're also confident they'll soon be reunited with their own.
"We're good at our jobs," added Ramsey, "We know our jobs as good as we know anything else in the world. I know that with these guys, I know that we're all going to come home."
The troops will be gone for at least a year to eighteen months. The Third Infantry Division is the first Army division to return to Iraq since the beginning of the war. The rest of the Third Infantry Division's 19,000 soldiers will be deploying in the coming weeks.