Thousands of friends and families are saying goodbye to a North Carolina National Guard unit heading to Iraq.
A capacity crowd gathered inside the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville on Tuesday during a farewell ceremony for 3,800 members of the guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
It's one of the last combat units headed to Iraq.
A battalion from West Virginia and a company from Colorado also
are being deployed.
Federal officials joined Gov. Beverly Perdue, members of Congress and military commanders in thanking the soldiers amid thunderous applause.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren said the troops were "citizen soldiers in the finest tradition."
North Carolina Rep. Bob Etheridge added: "Together, we pray that God may keep you safe."