LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY/WKYT) – Kentuckians said their farewell to more than 150 members of the National Guard on Saturday who are headed overseas for deployment.

“We’ve been dreading this day for a couple days now, and you never know your emotions until you get there,” said April McQueen, whose husband is being deployed.

Families shed a few tears, shared warm embraces and said goodbyes to their soldiers as they were sent off with a departure ceremony this afternoon.

For April McQueen’s husband and many of these soldiers, it is their first deployment.

“Just very proud of them for answering the call,” McQueen said. “It’s going to be a long time. But it’s what he was born to do, that’s what he wants to do and we’re going to support him, 100 percent.”

Captain Keith Waller commands the more than 150 soldiers heading to Djibouti, and he said it’s the first deployment of this kind in about 10 years.

Speakers at the ceremony said they expected 300 to 400 people at the Blue Grass Airport, and over a thousand showed up to say their goodbyes to these troops. Capt. Waller said the love and support shown from Somerset to Lexington was incredible.

“I think the entire city of Somerset was there to see us off,” said Capt. Waller. “We took the back roads here and every county and every city that we drove through there were firetrucks and American flags out.”

Their deployment will last about a year, according to a National Guard spokesperson.

Captain Waller took some time today to explain the significance of the mission these soldiers are embarking on, also known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Djibouti’s location is a vital point for support for the Horn of Africa,” Capt. Waller said. “It’s one of the major supply routes…that helps bring stabilization, support, food, water to many other surrounding countries in the area.”

It’s also Capt. Waller’s first deployment, and he says the company has been working together every day to prepare for this.

“Over that time you start to love and care for each of those soldiers as if you’re a parent…” said Capt. Waller.

Like a parent, he says he’ll do everything he can to bring them home safe.

“Because they’re not just your family, they’re my family as well,” Capt. Waller said.