When the 684th Area Support Medical Company of the National Guard deploys to Afghanistan in September, it will have the support of the city of Westerville behind it.

When the 684th Area Support Medical Company of the National Guard deploys to Afghanistan in September, it will have the support of the city of Westerville behind it.

Westerville City Council approved a proclamation earlier this month welcoming the guard unit back to the city of Westerville and designating Westerville as the unit's home base.

The guard unit called Westerville home until it was disbanded in 1996.

The unit has since contacted Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi about being adopted by the city of Westerville.

"Since they're going to be deployed, they were told they had a choice of the community that was going to adopt them," Cocuzzi said. "I was very excited that they called. We have this long history with the National Guard troop in Westerville."

First Sgt. Kevin Runyon, who lives in Westerville, said he believed Westerville is a perfect match for the unit because the city has had a past relationship with it and because the city has long shown its support of the military through events such as its Field of Heroes.

"As a traditional guardsman, I've always thought that the guard and the community are a natural match," Runyon said. "I felt it was a missing piece of the puzzle for both sides."

The National Guard unit includes 75 members from throughout Ohio, with most hailing from central Ohio, Runyon said.

The unit will have its call to duty ceremony Sept. 11 before heading to training and then to Afghanistan, he said.

Cocuzzi said the city still is working on details of what Westerville will be doing to engage the guard unit, but unit members will serve as parade marshals for the 4th of July parade. They also have been invited to be special guests at the city's Honor Flight pancake breakfast, and the city is planning a pool parties for the unit members their families.

She said Westerville also will be involved in the unit's call to duty event and will find ways to support it while it's gone, such as by sending care packages and having students from the city's schools write letters to the soldiers.

"We hope to be doing things with them all year long. It's just a matter of what they can do and what they can't do," Cocuzzi said. "It's an honor to be able to take care of our soldiers serving overseas and let them know that there's a whole community that cares about them."

Runyon said the unit is thrilled with the way Westerville has embraced it.

"Everybody in our command group, the way that they've accepted us back, they're extremely excited," Runyon said. "We're happy to be part of this community and we look forward to building this relationship before we are deployed."

The greatest part of having the support of the community for guard unit members, Runyon said, is knowing that there will be a community here looking after the members' families while the unit is deployed.

"If the families have support, it makes our mission so much easier that we don't have to worry when we're gone," he said.

Cocuzzi said the city is privileged to be able to support the guard unit in this way.

"It's an honor to be able to take care of our soldiers serving overseas and let them know that there's a whole community that cares about them," she said. "We've welcomed back the National Guard before, and now they're going to the front lines. You have to support your soldiers."