Illinois National Guard unit deploys to Afghanistan

By Alyssa Donovan

September 10, 2013 Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, friends and families said goodbye to loved ones being deployed to Afghanistan.

Colonel Joe Barker is being deployed with the Illinois Army National Guard for the 5th time.

"It's still fun I always said when it stops being fun or I can't contribute I'll get out," Barker said.

A ceremony was held for nearly 20 soldiers at the Bloomington Armory Tuesday.

The soldiers will train in New Jersey and Poland before deploying to Afghanistan.

This is the first deployment for some of the soldiers and Barker said the goodbyes don't get any easier.

"It's significant because everything you miss," he said. "This is the 3rd time that we've missed Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter...you know the big holidays. You miss all the weddings, holidays, birthdays. So that part is difficult. The team members who have younger kids it's harder."

Barker was sent off by his three daughters, who are all in their 20's, and his wife Rita.

"It's hard. It's a long time but at the same time I know that's what he does," Rita said.

Barker's daughter Martha said her mother has always been their rock during dad's time away.

"My mom, she's tough so we've kind of followed suit," she said.

The family said technology has made the distance a little easier.

"Certainly these ones are much easier than the last ones because of Skype and face time," Martha said.

"First deployment was a phone call every week for 10 minutes," Barker said.

In her husbands absence, Rita will be helping with communication between the troops and their families as part of the family readiness group.

"I'll talk to my husband, he lets us know what's going on. We'll have some news letters let them know how they're doing," she said.

Rita and the girls said it is hard to say good bye but they couldn't be more proud of their soldier.

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