DEVENS — If there is anything Daniel D’Eon is certain about his life over the next several hundred days, it’s the fact that he will miss the first birthday of his 11-month-old son, Brady.

He will celebrate his wedding anniversary in Afghanistan, 6,500 miles away from his wife. He won’t see his daughter dance at a ballet recital.

“It’s those small things that are hard,” said D’Eon, a Wilmington police officer, looking back on his tour of duty in Guantanamo Bay between 2002 and 2003.

So, why did the father of four, who retired from his 20-year career in the Army in 2006, decide to enlist himself as a reservist?

“This,” he said, pointing to the crowd of men and women in uniform and their families who walked up to
greet him one by one.

“They gave me what we have,” D’Eon said of freedom. “It’s my payback.”

That sense of duty and courage makes the 40 soldiers from the 342nd Military Police Company departing for Afghanistan special, said Col. Marvin Benton, commander of the Westover-based 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

“When 9/11 happened, many raised their hands and said, ‘We will go,’ ” Benton told the Army families packing the room. “Today, your soldiers raised his or her hand and said, ‘I will go.’ ”

The room burst into applause.

“I don’t care how long it takes,” he continued. “I don’t care how many times we have to go back there. We will prevail.”

Army families from around the region cheered for their loved
ones yesterday as they gathered for the 342nd’s mobilization ceremony. The group of about 40 troops will serve as law-enforcement officers for coalition forces in Afghanistan once they complete one last training program over the next month in Fort Dix, N.J., where they are headed today. The soldiers have spent the past year training at Devens for their deployment.

The ceremony was filled with cheers and exuberance. But guest speaker Benton, who has been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan
before, said he understood the anxiety that the families were going through.

“While I was deployed, my family was also deployed with me,” Benton said, encouraging the soldiers to stay in touch with the folks back home. He promised senior officers will look after the troops so that they can safely return. “Please know this — we train hard and we work hard,” he said. “These soldiers are a part of the best army in the world.”

That provided little consolation to D’Eon’s 11-year-old son, Deven.

“I feel upset and sad,” said Deven, who was going to Kimball Farm in Westford for one last ice cream with his dad yesterday. Though he remembers watching his mother, Janine D’Eon, leave for her tour of duty with the Army in Iraq before
and his father going to serve at Guantamomo, he was too little to understand what was going on in those places, he said. Now that he knows, he wants his dad to come home safe.

Janine said her own experience gives her a peace of mind about her husband’s deployment.

“It’s not all bad,” she said of being in war zones. “I don’t regret it.”

D’Eon, who will serve as a detachment sergeant, said he often attended mobilization ceremonies after retiring from the Army and watched the soldiers he trained leave. When he no longer wanted to be a bystander, Janine threw her complete support behind his decision to rejoin the force.

In the case of Army Spc. Colby Morton, 39, of Pepperell, her strong desire to build her career in law enforcement made her decide to join the Army. The Hewlett-Packard employee, who graduated from a military police investigator school in Missouri, wants to contribute to the society as a police officer. And, once she experienced the tight relationships among the troops, she knew that’s where she belongs.

“She’s got a lot of great people around her, so I think they will take care of each other,” said Morton’s sister, Jill Morton, also of Pepperell.

“She should be able to handle herself,” said Morton’s 19-year-old son, Tyler.

“I’m sad to see her go,” said Morton’s 95-year-old grandmother, Mildred Smith of Townsend.

Morton’s brother, Brett, who is also in the Army, said he has a simple message for his sister: “I’m proud of you and know you are going to do well. Just take care of yourself and other soldiers — and come back promoted.”