BEND, Ore. - This month, almost 1,000 Oregon National Guard members will be deployed overseas to Afghanistan. Nearly 200 of them are from Central Oregon. While each of their stories is different, they're all leaving behind loved ones to serve our country. Saying that final farewell before taking-off isn't easy for anyone.
On a chilly, overcast Central Oregon spring day, a family gathers to say goodbye.
Travis West, 28, of Bend, is deploying to Afghanistan as a lieutenant with the 1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry, headquartered in Bend.
He'll be part of some the last troops in the country. To be a part of that history, though, he must leave behind a wife, Amanda, and two daughters, Elizabeth, 3, and Hannah, almost 1.
"It's kind of that warrior spirit," Travis says. "You have that calling."
Travis and Amanda met each other on the school bus. They both graduated from Summit High School in Bend. They've been married for nearly a decade.
"We always knew it was going to happen at some point," Amanda says of Travis impending departure.
National service is in Travis' blood. His great, great-uncle, Oswald West, was Oregon's governor from 1911 to 1915. His grandfather, Willis West, penned the treaty the Japanese signed ending World War II, and his father, Clark West, was a tank driver during the Vietnam War.
"His experience wasn't very good," Travis says. "He has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from that. And we grew up with that."
Travis' mother, Kris West, says at first, she was upset to learn her son enlisted, but after time, she came to accept and support her son's decision.
"It's his path," she says. "It's where he's headed."
Travis is optimistic. Part of his duties as a platoon leader entails making sure his soldiers are mentally taken care of. Looking out for signs of PTSD is a major factor in that.
"You don't really know how you're going to take it," he says. "How your brain is going to take all of it. It depends on what you see over there."
The harsh reality of war is not lost on Travis.
"It's possible that you'll come back not at all, or that you'll come back with a disability, either physical or mental," he says.
Travis is staying focused on the mission, which he says is making Afghanistan a safer place for its people -- to not just live, but thrive.
With his family's love and support, there's no looking back, only forward to next year's homecoming, when Travis is reunited with his longtime love and their daughters.