USMC Lance Corporal Stephen Harkness hugs friend before leaving for Afghanistan
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Sunday afternoon Lance Corporal Stephen Harkness left for Afghanistan on his first deployment with the United States Marine Corps.
When Harkness left his Verona, Kentucky home he had no idea dozens of people were waiting for him as they lined the roadway down the street from his home.
A friend said to Harkness, "Awwww man... dude I love you man... I know you're coming home dude."
The Marine's family and friends thought it would be a good idea to show their support for him and other American soldiers before he left to help defend our country.
"We want to send him off and make sure he remembers we're thinking about him while he's over there," said Chris Savchick.
One by one the 20-year-old Marine walked down a long line of supporters on Porter Road in Verona, Kentucky to say thanks and to hear how much he's loved and will be missed.
"It feels great. I think it's a privilege to go," explained Harkness. "I'm very much honored. Obviously, all this is kind of put on for me but it's more for the people here and I'm really glad everyone came out. I'm just glad to do my part. It just makes me determined to come back safe and do a good job."
Tina Crase has known Stephen since he was 5 years old. When the Marine's mother, Lynn, asked Tina to put something together for Sunday's departure, she jumped into action.
"So often you see people lining the streets when a soldier comes home and sometimes it's not always good," explained Crase. "When it all first breaks out everybody puts out their yellow ribbons and their flags and everybody is right there for everybody and when it goes on a little longer than people expect then the support dies down."
Lauren Palmer, a family friend, says every armed forced member should be sent off this way.
"I think we're capable as a country of doing both," Palmer encouraged. "Sending them off and eventually bringing them home under both good and bad circumstances."
Tina Crase said, "We want him to know that he's going away with our support, we'll have it the whole time he's there and we'll have it when he gets back."
The E.W. Scripps Company