HARRISBURG, March 10, 2011 – – On the heels of the announcement that area soldiers from the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard will be deployed to the Middle East for the fifth time since 2001, state Sen. John P. Blake today commended the young men and women for their unwavering commitment to protecting our country and advancing America’s ideals.

“I can only imagine how incredibly difficult this deployment, and especially multiple deployments — as is this case here — can be for these soldiers and their families,” Blake said. “These brave young men and women, and their loved ones, need to know that their courage and sacrifice do not go unnoticed or unappreciated in their community.”

Sen. Blake said his father, Jack, served in the Navy during World War II aboard the USS Hissem, a destroyer escort. Mr. Blake also noted the many years he worked for the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority where Gino J. Merli, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, served as chairman.

“Hearing the military stories from my father and being in close proximity to Mr. Merli taught me to maintain the utmost respect and admiration for all of our men and women in uniform,” Blake added. “My most sincere wish is for the safety and well-being of all of our soldiers during their tour in the Middle East. We look forward to seeing them all come home safely to their families and loved ones and to the deep thanks and appreciation of their community.”

The 55th Brigade, whose headquarters are in Scranton, will send soldiers to Kuwait to provide security for US bases and convoys in early 2012. Brigade soldiers have previously served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sinai Peninsula.

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