WHITE PLAINS, Md. — On the night before Staff Sergeant Christopher Marshall's deployment to the Middle East, his family gathered at a small steakhouse off Crain Highway.
Due to covid restrictions, the reservation had to be limited. Marshall was joined by his wife, mother-in-law, and a small group of other close loved ones.
For the D.C. Air National Guardsman, the dinner was a last chance for him to sit and chat with family before departing from Andrews Air Force Base to begin a tour overseas.
"I’m anxious, excited, nervous. This is going to be my first deployment," he said on Thursday night. "I’m curious to see how that other part of the world is operating.”
Marshall is a son, husband, father, and proud member of the American armed forces.
He is also one of the many men and women who continues to serve the country and sacrifice time at home all to answer a call.
Marshall's deployment is expected to last at least three months, which could be extended depending on the activity in the area.
While the overseas duty brought excitement for him, Marshall said the dinner on Thursday was another reminder of the support he will have back home.
"I want to eat some great food, have some great laughs, share good stories," he said. "It definitely lets me know that I’m loved and that I’m going to be prayed over and cared for.”
Throughout the night, Marshall's mother-in-law would glance over and smile at her son-in-law.
For her, the gathering was a chance to show Marshall how much he meant to all of his family.
"We wanted to let him know that we’re here for him and we’re not going to forget him. We’re going to pray for him every day that he comes back," said Karen Walton-Taylor. "We’re a praying family. We’re praying that God will let him come home.”
Marshall comes from a family of service members.
His father, Taylor, and two of her sisters are retired police officers while Taylor's brother served in the U.S. Navy.
Marshall's deployment came as the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan has been in the spotlight.
This week, President Biden stood by his pledge to remove soldiers from the country by the end of August and said the US could not stay in the country forever.
"We are ending the nation's longest war," the president said in remarks at the White House Thursday. "The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago. We need to meet the threats where they are today."
Taylor hoped her son-in-law's story would help shine a light on how men and women are continuing to be sent to other parts of the world while leaving behind loved ones.
"Even though the president is bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, we still have soldiers in the Middle East and we still have soldiers who are being deployed," she said. "It’s all for a purpose. We may not always agree with it but I imagine somebody has to do it.”
Marshall was set to depart for the Middle East on Friday.
Moving forward, Taylor said she would keep her son-in-law close to her heart while he is away.
"It's important for us to know that we’re here," she said. "We’re not going to forget him and we’re going to be praying overnight.”