Hassan talked about her father, a World War II veteran who enlisted in the Army when he was 18 years old and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Service in the military gave her father strength, skills, discipline and purpose, she said.
"In all of you gathered here today, I see the same strength, pride and resolve I saw in my dad," said Hassan. "Our country is safer, our freedom stronger, because of your efforts."
Ayotte thanked the soldiers for their sacrifice and underlined the importance of their mission, which is intended to strengthen Afghanistan's internal security and criminal justice system, and in the process protect and preserve the country's fledgling democratic government.
"We know it's not an easy job," said Ayotte. "We, our country and New Hampshire are so proud of you."
Lt. Col. David Mikolaities, 54th Troop Command Battalion Commander, said the sendoff was both a glorious moment and a solemn time.
"Glorious because freedom as never been won by spectators, but by men and women -- like yourselves, who live to sacrifice and defend the hard-fought freedoms which our country values," said Mikolaities. "Solemn because of the mission you are about to embark upon. Solemn for the many here who have lost loved ones in service to our nation, and the many more who have paid the ultimate price. So our heartfelt thanks are tempered by prayers for your safe return."
Thirty-three members of the 237th MP Company have already served deployments overseas. Those who have deployed before, including Sgt. Brodie Morancie, 21, of Whitefield, understand the challenges in maintaining relationships and keeping in contact with loved ones while they are serving in a war zone halfway across the world.
Morancie and his girlfriend, 21-year-old Haley Adamuska, were together during his first year-long deployment to Kuwait in 2010. They maintained communication through the Internet (email, Facebook and Skype) and care packages. This time Morancie faces an added challenge -- his deployment begins right before Valentine's Day.
"I'll have to send flowers," he said.
Adamuska said the time apart was difficult but shrugged it off, saying she fully supported Morancie and all of the troops serving overseas "every step of the way."
Meanwhile Short is receiving similar support from his girlfriend, Aimee Fullford, who expressed pride in Short's decision to serve with the National Guard.
Over the past few months, they had spent as much time together as possible. She described his deployment as bittersweet.
Looking around the SNHU field house, Fullford said that if her boyfriend is going to leave her for a year, at least it's with the 237th MP Company.
"I couldn't lose him to a better group of guys," she said.