PIQUA — The Ohio National Guard honored approximately 160 soldiers from the 1487th Transportation Company in a “Call to Duty” ceremony hosted by Piqua High School on Saturday.
The troops will soon depart for a year-long overseas deployment in support of U.S. Central Command operations.
According to Stephanie Beougher, public information officer for the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department, while deployed, the 1487th Transportation Company will provide transportation assets and support to various units throughout its area of responsibility.
The 1487th, nicknamed the “Iron Camels,” has deployed previously, with the most recent being in 2012-2013 when the unit was stationed in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The PHS gymnasium bleachers were filled near capacity Saturday, as friends and family gathered to support their soldiers and wish them well during their deployment.
Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, addressed the soldiers and families, along with Battalion Chaplain Joshua Stone, Gov. Mike DeWine, Mayor of Piqua Kris Lee, Rep. Steve Huffman, Commander of the 1487 Transportation Company Capt. Peter Witt, a representative on behalf of Rep. Warren Davidson, and representatives from the offices of Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman.
Cpls. John and Alberto Zapata were among the soldiers honored in the ceremony. Identical twins from Hamilton, the Zapata brothers, 22, have been in the Army for five years, having joined during their junior year of high school.
This will be the first deployment for both men.
“We volunteered (for this deployment) from a different unit,” John said. “We wanted to go, we wanted to serve, and we talked about it with our families, as well.”
“Of course we decided to go together,” Alberto added. “We tend to do everything together.”
The Zapata brothers will both work as motor transport operators, and said they’re thankful to be deploying together.
“It makes it easier that you have that piece of home with you,” John said.
For Staff Sgt. Anthony Reed, this will be his fourth deployment. Reed was also part of the 1487th Transportation Company’s last deployment in 2012-2013.
Reed’s wife Rachel, son Dillon, 13, and twins Cameron and CJ, 10, also attended Saturday’s ceremony. Thanks to the unit’s Family Readiness Group, Reed said he feels more comfortable about leaving his family.
“Our FRG is set up with Tammi, who has done a wonderful job letting families know what’s going on and keeping in touch,” he said.
Rachel said she also appreciates the help of the FRG while her husband is deployed.
“It makes you feel good and that you’re not alone,” she said. “There are other people here who are willing to help and who are going through the same thing you are.”
Reed had a bit of advice for those soldiers who may be deploying for their first time.
“All the training that you receive, you need to soak it all up,” he said. “Deployments are hard and very stressful, but we have to lean on each other. When we go over there, we are family.”