“Daddy, daddy,” cried a little girl as the men and women of the 107th Infantry Battalion completed a walk-past at Custume Barracks on Wednesday afternoon.
She was one from many families who came to see the Minster of State for Defence, Paul Kehoe, review the troops before they leave shortly for peacekeeping duties in Lebanon.
Private Martin Ward from Garrycastle makes his first tour of duty, 20 years after his father Peter lost his life in the line of duty in Lebanon.
He’s proud to follow in his father’s footsteps, even though he’ll be leaving his own four-year-old son, Kailum.
“I don’t think about the dangers of it, I think about my father and following in my father’s footsteps. I’m just proud to go over and serve for the United Nations like my father,” he said.
He said his mother Pauline, though not thrilled he is going, is happy that he’s happy. His aunt Rose Egan, also had mixed feelings.
“Delighted for Martin following in his father’s footsteps, but at the same time it brings back memories for the family,” she said, admitting that it was an emotional time.
“It’s hard to find the words, but I’m very proud of Martin - it’s like an investigation for him, to investigate all that went on in the Lebanon many moons ago.”
Father and son Private Mark Cox and Gunner Philip Cox from Monksland, will make their first journey together to the Lebanon.
Private Cox, who has been in Lebanon five times is looking forward to showing his son the ropes in Tibnin, introducing him to the orphanage there and the variety of humanitarian work they do.
He’ll also be introducing him to Rosie, who manages the local shop and speaks English with “a bit of every accent” and is like all the Lebanese: “They’re very homely, welcome you in, and ask you to have tea with them”.
His last tour in Lebanon was in 1998 and he’s looking forward to seeing major changes, with buildings and roads improved there “back the way it should be”.
Gunner Cox, who spent six months in Liberia in 2006, said his dad’s stories encouraged him to join the army and after the first couple of trips, he got used to him going away.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing it first hand with him, side by side,” though they’ll leave grandmother Maureen, Philip’s mother Martina and sister and brother Lisa and Andrew.
Private Katie Berry from Moate is also excited and nervous about her first tour, and says that over the years she’s “heard a few stories”.
She’s the first in her family to join the Army and her family “are nervous for me but they’re happy for me because I’m getting on well”.