Anahi Jimenez was just five years old when terror attacks shook the nation on September 11, 2001. Fifteen years later to the very day, she and 18 other Chicago-area soldiers said goodbye to their families and left for a deployment to Afghanistan.
“Even though I don't remember it, I was taught through school what happened and now, knowing that I’m deploying, it just makes me really proud to be born in this country,” Jimenez said at the deployment ceremony for the 19 soldiers in the Illinois Army National Guard.
Family and loved ones were joined by Governor Bruce Rauner and Senator Mark Kirk for the send-off in suburban Riverside on Sunday. The soldiers left for Fort Hood, Texas, for training and will ultimately be deployed to Afghanistan for a nine-month mission.
The group will assist hospitals and clinics in the Bagram, Afghanistan area and provide medical support to both U.S. and coalition forces, Rauner said in a release.
“We were prepared for this, this was something that I knew was coming,” said one soldier’s wife. But that didn’t make the goodbyes any easier.
“I'm just ready to go so I can come back to my family,” Michael Looze said, fighting back tears as he leaned in to kiss his son.
Sunday also marked Zachary Taylor’s 29th birthday. Just three weeks into his marriage, he began the day of his deployment by saying a prayer for the lives lost on September 11, 2001.
“I think it's is a good way to take it back, to take back this day from something that tragically happened and keep it as ours,” he said.
“Deploying on a day like September 11th, you really know the mission you are about to make,” said Sen. Mark Kirk.
“It a difficult sacrifice that you are making,” Rauner told the soldiers during the ceremony. “We owe you debt of gratitude.”