National Guardsmen and their guests ate pulled-pork sandwiches and sipped lemonade at an Auburn park Tuesday.
Kids filled two inflatable playgrounds. Politicians delivered speeches and posed for photos.
And in the final hours before sending off their soldiers for a year, family members chatted about life with their loved ones serving overseas.
"It’s a little scary," said Jenny Anderson, wife of Spc. Randall Anderson. "It’s a little stressful. But it’s kind of exciting at the same time. It’s cool that he’s going to serve his country. The kids consider him their hero."
It is families like the Andersons whom the commander of the 81st Brigade Combat Team calls "the unsung heroes of this deployment."
Similar farewell ceremonies were held at 11 other sites across the state Tuesday, as the 2,500-member brigade embarks today on one last training in Wisconsin before deploying to Iraq. The soldiers already spent 28 days at the Yakima Training Center in July and August.
Randall Anderson took his family on a dinner cruise and a camping trip to make the most of his 10 days of leave. He just wanted to spend time with his wife and three children.
Now comes the difficult part for Anderson, a 33-year-old military policeman from Puyallup.
"I’m not nervous when it comes to doing my job," he said. "I’m just not looking forward to leaving my family behind."