They stood outside in the cold as family and friends snapped pictures outside American Legion Post 83.
Less than 10 minutes later, guard members of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 148 Infantry boarded three waiting buses that would take them away from their loved ones.
Rain began to drizzle as the soldiers squeezed in final hugs, kisses and pictures.
Delta Company was notified in March it would leave for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The troops are headed to Fort Hood, Texas, for additional training before leaving in the spring for the Middle East.
The unit will be mobilized for about a year, but their time overseas could be extended, said Capt. Michael Wood, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 148 Infantry.
The unit's final destination will be Kuwait, he said.
Saturday morning, hundreds of family and friends arrived at the American Legion Post 83 to spend a few more hours with their beloved soldiers.
"This is family time," Wood said. "It's a very emotional time for the guys."
Pfc. Jacob Hoy spent time with his wife and two young children. Hoy's 4-year-old son, Sam, happily took pictures of his dad while 1-year old sister, Riley, walked around toting a bottle of juice.
Hoy, of New London, joined the Ohio National Guard almost two years ago.
It was something he was interested in pursuing since Sept. 11, 2001, said his wife Heidi.
"I'm nervous for my kids more than anything," Hoy said.
The Hoys, both 26, said they've explained the situation to their children.
"Daddy's got to go be a soldier again," said Heidi Hoy to her son.
Neil and Janet Lippus, creators of the Ohio Fallen Heroes memorial, arrived in matching Army jackets and Army National Guard baseball caps. Under those, they wore matching blue sweatshirts adorned with yellow ribbons in support of the troops. The Sandusky couple also attended the mobilization ceremony Thursday at the Sandusky State Theatre.
"We've been supporting the unit since they went to Kosovo in 2004," said Janet Lippus.
Neil Lippus, a Korean War veteran and a former National Guard soldier, said he understands everything the troop is experiencing.
"All the time they're gone -- we'll be here when they get back," he said.
Laughter filled the room as families and friends joked with one another. There was no shortage of tears or tissues as time neared for the guard members to board the buses.
The back hall of the American Legion was filled by 10 a.m. Cookies and coffee were available for everyone to enjoy.
By mid-morning, stuffed snowmen donated by the United Service Organizations were passed out to the children as gifts.
Sue Reardon sat around a table full of family and friends counting the last few minutes before her son Josh would leave.
"I miss him when he's not home -- even if he's across town," she said.
Spc. Josh Reardon, 28, volunteered to go back to the Middle East. He had just returned from Iraq in October. Josh Reardon joined the Ohio National Guard in 2001 and said he volunteered for the deployment to help his fellow soldiers.
"This is the unit I've been with since the beginning," he said. "I can help those who have never left before."
Saturday's deployment is Josh Reardon's third tour of duty.
"He knows what he's doing," said his mother. "He's well-trained."
About 11:30 a.m., people began to line the edges of the parking lot. People waved flags, clapped, comforted one another and took pictures as the soldiers boarded the buses one by one.
Charles Odums of Sandusky, arrived at the American Legion just in time to shake hands with the individual guard members before they boarded the buses. Odums' son, Charles Odums II, was a specialist and medic attached to the 1st Cavalry Division. He died in 2004 when a roadside bomb went off near his military convoy.
"I can't think of today coming and going without me being a part of it," Odums said. "I feel like I know them all ... I feel a strong bond with them."
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Perkins Township fire and police departments and American Legion Riders escorted the buses as they traveled south on Ohio 4 to take the turnpike to Toledo. Through the buses' tinted windows, family and friends caught final glimpses of the soldiers as they waved good-bye and the lights on the government vehicles faded until they disappeared.
By the numbers
About 1,600 Ohio guard members with the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, including Delta Company, were deployed this week. Headquartered in Columbus, the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team last deployed to support operations in Kosovo as part of the United Nations Kosovo Force mission from August 2004 to February 2005, according to the U.S. Army's Web site.