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Officials, relatives see off National Guard finance unit heading to Afghanistan

Pfc. Alonzo Guardado of the Arizona National Guard’s 159th Finance Detachment holds his son, Dylan, during a ceremony before the group deploys to Afghanistan. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Joseph Schmidt)

As she tearfully prepared to send a third son to serve the U.S. military in a war zone, Tucson resident Barbara Medrano said it doesn’t get any easier.

“The only thing that helps me is that it’s a choice,” she said. “It’s something they want to do, not something they have to do.”

Her son, Specialist Joseluis Huerta, left Monday for Fort Dix, N.J., with the Arizona National Guard’s 159th Finance Detachment to complete training for a one-year stint in Afghanistan. Both of his older brothers are serving in the military as helicopter mechanics, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

Huerta and the rest of the 26-member finance unit will handle the monetary side of the Afghan operation by managing payroll and dispersing money for supply contracts.

“Our mission is to support the soldiers financially,” Huerta said.

This is Huerta’s second foreign deployment. He served for a year with Arizona’s 160th Finance Detachment in Kosovo. When he returned in July 2010, he volunteered to serve in a surveillance mission for the National Guard on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 159th, which was also deployed to Kuwait in 2004, has the goal of keeping soldiers financially stable so they can more easily focus on their duties.

“We hold on to all of the cash, kind of like the Army bank,” said Unit Commander Capt. Dan Davis, a Glendale resident who returned from an Arizona National Guard infantry tour in Afghanistan three years ago.

Unlike Huerta and Davis, this deployment is the first for Pfc. Alonzo Guardado, whose wife and two small children attended the ceremony to see him off.

“I appreciate what this country has done for me and my family, and it’s my turn to give something back,” said Guardado, who was born in Mexico and raised in Phoenix.

As the Arizona troops work to support their fellow soldiers financially, their families will work to give them the same peace of mind by keeping them posted on happenings back home.

“They know they have a family to come home to,” said Huerta’s stepfather, Patrick Medrano. “Something to comfort them is letting them know everything is OK here.”

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