Soldiers honored in Southfield before deployment

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Southfield — For Preston Bruce, hugging, kissing and smiling with his family on Saturday was like the calm before the storm, he said.

Specialist Preston Bruce, right, 25, hugs his sister Lori Bruce, 40, of Ecorse, before the ceremony.

The United States Army Reserve solider was enjoying his final moments with loved ones before being deployed to a ninth-month tour in Afghanistan.

Bruce, 25, said he wasn’t afraid. He spent the last six years in the Army preparing for this moment.

“The threats are present, but we train for all situations,” Bruce said “I’m just ready to get down there and start my job and come back home to my family.”

About 30 soldiers preparing for deployment to Afghanistan were honored Saturday during a special farewell ceremony at the Southfield Pavilion.

Sgt. Jerome Priest, from right, and specialists Preston Bruce, Giancarlo Lopez and Brianna Berge laugh as they do push ups after the ceremony.

They represent the 645th Regional Support Group and have completed most of their training at the Lt. Robert Poxon U.S. Army Reserve Center in Southfield.

Commanding General Jonathan McColumn said the soldiers have had ongoing training for this mission for the past six months.

Afghanistan is considered a “tough environment surrounded by enemy forces,” McColumn said.

“Of course there are certain people there who may or may not like their presence,” he said. “So they have been taught to defend themselves.”

The ceremony included remarks from U.S. Rep Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, Southfield Councilman Daniel Brightwell and McColumn.

While thanking the soldiers for their service, Lawrence said it was the responsibility of elected officials to take care of the military families back home.

“I want to start off with a sense of gratitude for the sacrifice that they made through their determination,” Lawrence said. “To stand up and be part of our military, which is so much the foundation of our democracy.”

Sgt. Charles Fowlkes Jr. said he was excited to go overseas and “make everyone at home proud.”

Fowlkes of Oak Park said he followed his father’s footsteps in joining the U.S. Army Reserve.

“I grew up watching my dad put his uniform on every day, and now it’s my turn to put one on and take it to the next level,” said Fowlkes, who is also a physical therapy aide.

“I’m proud that my son is serving in the military,” Charles Fowlkes Sr. said. “And there’s a little nervousness, anxiety for the mission at hand.”

(313) 222-6793

Twitter: @NicquelTerry