Charlotte-based unit deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Charlotte-based unit deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

More than 100 members of the NC Air National Guard are leaving Charlotte Wednesday and Thursday for a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The unit will provide air support with their C-130 Hercules aircraft to troops on the ground.

Deployments are tough. There were lots of tears and hugs Wednesday morning as about 40 airmen said goodbye. A couple of families said that even though the airmen in their lives are career military the goodbyes don't get any easier.

Kids on the tarmac were waving the American flag and running around, getting ready for a big goodbye. Parents said the younger ones don't quite understand everything that's happening but do know if dad isn't home.

Some of the moms said they do their best on the home front in Charlotte.

One mom, Melissa Geoffroy is expecting a baby in August and knows her husband won't be by her side because he is a tech sergeant with the 145th Airlift Wing.

"We've just tried to place our support system in place before he left and do the best we can," said Geoffroy. "I mean you basically become a single parent and you just have to step up your game while he's away doing what he needs to do to protect the country."

Four-year old Genna Lee doesn't quite understand where her dad, Master Sergeant David Lee is going for four months with the 145th Airlift Wing.

"I'm proud what he does for our family and for our country.  That my children get to see that," said Crystie Lee, Genna's mom and Msgt. Lee's wife.

"I love him," said Genna Lee.

Lee's 13-year-old daughter, Emily Wilkins loves her dad too.

"I'm sad that's he's leaving," said Wilkins.

And Lee understands.

"As they get older they're more aware of the distance and the time away," he said.

This is Genna's second deployment.

"I think she's a little aware now but still unsure what's going on," said Lee looking at his youngest, "She just knows daddy is going to work."

Crystie Lee looks at Genna's t-shirt and explains it.

"This is her daddy's airplane it's the C-130 and it says my daddy, my airman, my hero," said Crystie Lee, "And he is."

The plane he is about to board is equipped to air drop troops and cargo into hostile areas.

"It's getting harder," said Lee.

As a career military man since 2002, the work isn't harder, being away from family is harder.

"My time as I'm getting older and closer to retirement and just more aware of what can happen and what you're losing and stuff," said Lee, "The time is more precious to me now than the adventure of it." 

The Lee family is just one of 100 saying good-bye to someone these couple of deployment days at Charlotte Air National Guard Base.

"He's a great man and hopefully people will pray for him," said Luke Wilkins, Lee's 11-year-old son.

"Being here when they come back is the best feeling," said Crystie Lee.

And as they wave goodbye, Genna asks, "Four is like really long?"

"No, four months will go by fast," said her mom.

Lee is a load master who grew up in Rockingham, NC.  He manages the cargo on the plane and makes sure safe transport of troops into a war zone.

The Lee family lives in Georgia they are looking forward to coming back to Charlotte to welcome home Master Sergeant Lee in four months.

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