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Families of Hampton Roads troops bond as they wait for Gaza mission

A soldier assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade hugs his son before deploying from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in March for a humanitarian mission in Gaza.
Zulema Sotelo/Joint Base Langley-Eustis
A soldier assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade hugs his son before deploying from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in March for a humanitarian mission in Gaza.

The Family Readiness Group offers aid to the families of Army troops from Joint Base Langley/Fort Eustis while their soldiers prepare for a Gaza aid mission.

The families of the more than 500 soldiers and sailors from Hampton Roads watch the news as they wait for news of the food aid mission to get underway off the coast of Gaza.

Units from The Army 7th Transportation Brigade left Joint Base Langley/Fort Eustis in early March, only days after President Joe Biden outlined a project in the State Of the Union Address to provide aid to Gaza by using the military to build a temporary pier. Kelsey Napier’s husband, Capt. Eric Napier, is part of the mission. She’s also the coordinator for local Army families, during the deployment.

“Watching the boats go off was a huge, amazing thing to watch and the camaraderie that everybody has between even just the spouses and families but the service members themselves,” she said. “They have a great team and they have each other's backs.”

The mission is expected to draw international headlines, as famine begins to grip the civilian population in Gaza. Family Readiness at Fort Eustis has set up an email tree to keep spouses informed. The unit’s command held a town hall for the families, just prior to the deployment. The Family Readiness Group already held a spouses night last week. Friday, there will be a family night at the base, sponsored by The USO, Napier said.

“During a town hall meeting, we said we would give them reassurance weekly and let them know that everything is okay. It's just hard,” Napier said.

Regular events are being planned to keep families connected. While the mission started quickly, there is no announced end date, so families can only wait and try to stay connected, Napier said.

The Pentagon has announced that the pier, and a separate dock that connects to the shore, have been assembled in the Eastern Mediterranean. The first ship carrying humanitarian aid has already been dispatched. Weather has stopped the pier project from being deployed. Several questions also remain unanswered about the security on the ground and the path to distribute aid, once it reaches Gaza.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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