A rain-soaked ceremony befits an occasion not short on tears. For the approximately 175 soldiers of the 303rd Military Police Company, a send-off at their Army Reserve Center is the first leg of a journey into war.
"I really think this is a great opportunity to help people," says Sgt. Bobby Bradley. "It's a chance to be a light in a dark place--that's one reason I'm going."
Sgt. Bradley and much of the unit spent 9 months in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. But Iraq, Bradley says, is where they should be now.
"That's where they are helping people. That's our job."
The 303rd is a mix of soldiers from around Michigan, and across the Midwest.
"It'll make for a very interesting Big 10 football season," jokes their commander, Capt. Hoiland.
Jackson, though unites in their show of support, hundreds lining the streets for a parade. The soldiers marched through downtown. They call it a bright spot on a gloomy day.
The 303rd will act as military policemen and women on the front lines in Iraq. They leave for Fort Dix, New Jersey Wednesday morning, and then will spend a year in Iraq.