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Family, friends bid farewell to men bound for Iraq

Nicholas Ortiz and Brandon Gowan will leave the Lower Valley on Monday in preparation for a 10-month tour in Iraq.

Both are with the National Guard and both were single when they went to Iraq the first time. Both now have wives as they head back to Iraq. Ortiz's wife, Jennifer, was his girlfriend the first time he went to Iraq.

The similarity doesn't end there, though, as less than a year ago the two became family when Gowan married Ortiz's sister, Jessica.

Last night, Thursday, a dinner was held in the two men's honor at the Sunnyside Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge. A number of family, friends and neighbors turned out last night to see Gowan and Ortiz off as they first go to Wisconsin for nearly two months of training and then to Iraq.

Prior to the current deployment, Gowan worked at Darigold and Ortiz as an armed security guard.

The two say they don't mind going back to Iraq and believe the U.S. should maintain a presence in the country. "I don't think the country will benefit for the U.S. to withdraw," said Gowan. "It would fuel the fire (if the U.S. left)."

While in Iraq, Ortiz and Gowan will provide convoy security.

All of which means that Jessica Gowan will see both her husband and brother go into the Iraq war. During the year or so her husband will be gone, she said she will stay with her family. "They'll keep me busy," she said.

Gowan said the Monday departure hasn't totally set in yet. "I'm doing pretty good," she smiled. "I know they'll take care of each other. They'll be safe.

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