The medevac unit's send-off was held Thursday morning in Peaks Auditorium at Bangor High School where the governor, dignitaries, family and friends gathered to say their goodbyes to 88 Maine soldiers.
The primary mission of the Maine National Guard unit based in Bangor is to transport sick and wounded soldiers.
Helping people was the draw for a flight medic from Bucksport, who followed her sister into the Army.
“The ability to take people who are having the worst day of their lives and do what you can for them and bring them home safely to their families,” is why Tatjana Ramos said she became a medic.
The whole unit feels the same way, she said.
“We work together for that same common goal so it's a really rewarding feeling,” Ramos said.
About 30 citizen soldiers from DC and Idaho will join the Maine Army National Guard unit to total 150 soldiers who will deploy together to Afghanistan for a year.
Ramos is one of 55 Mainers who are on their first deployment. Seventeen are heading overseas for a second time, 11 are on their third deployment, one is one her fourth and two have gone into harm's way five times.
“For those of you that this is your first deployment: Look to your veterans, stick with them, ask them your questions. Learn from them,” Col. Dean Preston, commander of the 120th Regional Support Group of the Maine Guard.
Every speaker thanked the soldiers, their families and employers for the sacrifices they make.
The unit includes helicopter pilots, medics, and personnel who work in communications, flight operations, supplies and maintenance, and the commander is counting on everyone.
“Make no mistake, every single soldier in the audience plays a very important role in the accomplishment of our mission,” said Maj. William Bradbury, commander of the 126th Aviation Regiment.
The unit has deployed to Germany, Guatemala, and Bosnia and in the last decade, they have gone to Kuwait and Iraq.
“They are looking for a special, highly trained aerial medical evacuation unit and the Maine National Guard happens to have one and that is why they have so many deployments under their belt,” said Norman Stickney, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard.
“They are, in my opinion, the best in the nation,” he added.