INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) – Families were saying goodbye to the dozens of soldiers getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan as part of “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.”

At the Kovalchick Convention Center on IUP’s campus, over 90 soldiers with the 420th Engineer Company are about to deployed to Afghanistan: “It is not just the soldiers alone that make a difference. It’s all of us.”

Sitting in the first four rows inside the auditorium are soldiers.

Men and women from Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio who went through extensive training before they begin serving our country.

“All year was all training. I volunteered for everything that I could possibly get my hands on to be the most equipped person I can be,” said John Higgins with the United States Army Reserve.

This is John Higgins first deployment.

He admits it will be tough to leave his family behind, but says in the army, he’s not alone in this mission.

“We’re like a family,” said Higgins.

“I’m proud of him. We’re going to do what we can to, you know, hold down the fort until they get back,” said his wife, Ashley Higgins.

From the hugs to the many tears, the support was overwhelming for these soldiers.

“It was really unexpected. We had no idea there was that many people in there,” said Captain Robert Henning, Commander, 420th Engineer Company.

“Without them, we don’t have the military and the country doesn’t have the force to defend freedom, the constitution and all the things that go with it,” said Brig. Gen. Todd Lazaroski, Deputy Commanding General, 412th Theater Engineer Command.

And these soldiers will be deployed for at least a year.