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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Tuesday, January 01, 2019 03:03 PM

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Tennessee's 278th Calvary Regiment Holds Family Day Before Deployment To Ukraine

Before the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment deploys to Ukraine, organizers hosted a special day in Tyson Park to give families a chance to say goodbye before heading to Eastern Europe.

"It just feels amazing spending time with him and stuff," said Blake Gates, whose dad is preparing to head overseas. "When I play with him at the playground, it just makes my day."

8-year-old Blake Gates loves spending time with his dad. He gets to do that one more time before his dad's deployment.

"It's priceless; every minute, we've had an opportunity to spend time over the last several months," said Rusty Gates, who is being deployed to Ukraine.

Blake's dad, Rusty Gates, continues to serve after 20 years of fighting for America's freedoms. He's one of 87 soldiers in the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment who will deploy to Ukraine to help fellow soldiers setup a combat training center.

"It's a great opportunity for our soldiers in the unit to go over, not only to help out the Ukrainian military, but to learn a new culture in Ukraine and Poland," said Jimmy Cole, a 278 Armored Cavalry Regiment commander.

Before they left the country for about a year, organizers put on a family day to give them a chance to spend time with loved ones.

"Hopefully this can give us all one last hoorah before we leave here in the next 24 hours or so," said Rusty.

Soldiers, like Rusty, have similar stories. They miss out on a lot of family time.

"We've made a lot of sacrifices, the soldiers have, but even more the families have over the past year or so," said Rusty. "They've given up quite a bit."

For sons like Blake, it doesn't get any easier to see dad leave.

"He means everything to me, and my mom too," said Blake.

The 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment soldiers deploy Sunday. They head to Texas for more training before flying to Ukraine.