FORT JACKSON — Gov. Nikki Haley and her family bid a tearful farewell Thursday to her husband Michael as he left with a South Carolina National Guard unit for a month of training and deployment to Afghanistan.
Capt. Michael Haley wrapped his arms around his wife and two children as his unit was given a send-off by several hundred family members, friends and Guard officials at a National Guard site at Fort Jackson outside Columbia.
The governor declined to speak to reporters at the event, and her office issued a statement on her behalf as the group of 48 soldiers left in a bus for Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
“We are a proud military family who understands the sacrifices any family goes through when a loved one is serving his or her country,” Haley said.
She said her husband is looking forward to his mission, but she and her children will miss him.
“Rena, Nalin and I are proud of Michael and will pray for his, and all others’, safe return,” she said.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the governor’s office is not aware of any other governor’s spouse who is deployed with the uniformed military.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, said he could not answer the question whether any governor’s spouses were deployed military, and instead referred calls to each of the separate military service branches.
After Gov. Haley hugged their 10-year-old son Nalin and 14-year-old daughter Rena, the governor wrapped her arms around her husband and buried her head in his shoulder. Family members crowded around the small group, many wiping away tears.
The governor stepped away, dabbing her nose with a handkerchief as she appeared to be fighting back tears, after giving her husband multiple kisses.
Haley’s unit is not scheduled to return to South Carolina before departing on its yearlong mission. It is the third South Carolina Army National Guard group to spend a year working with Afghan farmers to improve farming practices.
Haley joined the guard as an officer in 2006. This will be his first deployment overseas. He has served as a medical service corps officer and a planning officer in the Guard’s Columbia headquarters.
Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., State Adjutant General and head of the 11,000-member Guard, came over to pat Capt. Haley on the back, as the two-star general did with many of those departing.