BREWER, Maine — Members of the Maine Army National Guard unit who spent Christmas with their families after Stephen and Tabitha King paid for their bus ride home, left Friday morning in a snowstorm for Indiana, where they continue training before heading to Afghanistan.
The bus left from the Brewer Armory slightly ahead of schedule about 9:45 a.m. for South Portland where it will pick up other members of Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit. The group arrived in Maine on Dec. 23 after a 15-hour bus ride from Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Friday morning’s send-off was private, unlike the event on Dec. 7 at the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts. Gov. John Baldacci attended but local media were not allowed inside the armory.
Soldiers carried plastic bags from L.L. Bean after they gave final embraces to loved ones before board-ing the bus. In an impromptu news conference, Baldacci said the Kings had donated books for the guardsmen to read, an Old Town bakery had provided doughnuts, and the Freeport-based business had provided lip balm, other items and the bags.
By early 2010, the Maine Army National Guard will have deployed about 50 percent of its force over-seas to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to reports previously published in the Bangor Daily News. More than 2,300 Maine men and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Nine have died.