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FAREWELL ... AGAIN

Spouses re-experience the pride and pain as the 320th Military Police Company embarks on a second tour of war duty in Iraq.

They celebrated their third anniversary early with a decadent dinner at the Melting Pot.

Valentine's Day came early, too. She made him his favorite, chicken cordon bleu, and played their song, Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts.

"We slow danced in the family room," said Ashley Cappatona, 22, of New Port Richey. Saturday afternoon, Cappatona held back tears and clung to the memory of that dance.

It will be more than a year until she gets another.

Her boyfriend, 23-year-old Army Sgt. Daniel Grant, is part of a 179-member police reserve unit shipping off to Iraq for a 400-day deployment.

During Saturday's sendoff ceremony at the Army Reserve Center, the unit's men and women - many of them Tampa Bay area law enforcement officers - stood in four neat lines and recited The Soldier's Creed.

I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values.

I will always place the mission first.

Their mothers and fathers and spouses and children listened and took pictures, bracing themselves for the mission and the long goodbye.

This is the 320th Military Police Company's second Middle East assignment since the Iraq war began, so loved ones like Cappatona have been here before.

But it never gets easier.

Glorimar Calderon was pregnant with little Isabel when her husband, Staff Sgt. Luis Calderon, got deployed the first time.

By the time he returned, Isabel was already 5 months old. Now she's almost 2.

She'll be almost ready for preschool by the time Calderon, 30, returns.

The Calderons' sixth wedding anniversary is next month. But he will be in Fort Dix, N.J., training for the unit's assignment north of Baghdad.

"It's bittersweet," said Mrs. Calderon, 28, of St. Petersburg. "It's hard."

Their oldest daughter, 4-year-old Angelica, will not have her daddy with her when she starts kindergarten in the fall.

But he was there with her Monday at Chuck E. Cheese, eating pizza and playing games and winning her a necklace.

It was their special afternoon together before he goes so far away.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

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