ABC News’ Kate Snow and Imtiyaz Delawala report: Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said a very public goodbye to her 19-year-old son, Track, this afternoon on a tarmac at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Alaska Governor was at the deployment ceremony as featured speaker and mother of Track Palin, who is one of the 4000 soldiers of the Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division deploying to Iraq.
"Don’t mind us if we allow for a few tears," Palin said. "Because we’re gonna miss you. We can’t help it. We’re gonna miss you."
She called the fight in Iraq a "righteous cause" and talked of the need to defend America from terrorists.
"You’ll be there to defend the innocent," she said. "America can never go back to that false sense of security that came before September 11, 2001."
"Soldiers, we honor you. Each one of these soldiers is here by choice," she said.
Palin never referenced her own son. As his mother spoke, Track Palin stood at attention wearing desert fatigues and a black beret, in a formation of some 4,000 soldiers facing the crowd of friends and family. He was nearly anonymous among the soldiers of his unit—nicknamed the "Grey Wolves."
Once in Iraq, Palin’s son will provide security for his brigade commander and deputy commander, said Major Chris Hyde, Public Information Officer for the 1st Stryker Brigade.
Hyde said Track Palin has not sought out special treatment, calling him a "low-key guy" who rarely mentions being the son of the governor.
Like others in the brigade, Palin’s son will ride in a Stryker vehicle.
In her remarks to the crowd of soldiers and their family and a swarm of news cameras, Sarah Palin talked about the "choice" each soldier made to join the Army.
“For every soldier who leaves us here today it is a choice that defines you,” she said.
“We are so proud of you. You could’ve chosen an easier, more comfortable path… instead you chose service,” Palin said.
The Republican vice presidential nominee predicted the soldiers would "one day see victory" but said before then, they would have much to endure.
Palin spoke from written notes and seemed to struggle a bit with names of Iraqi cities like Mosul, Tel Afar and others.
"Never doubt that we are thinking of you, praying for you," Palin concluded, "We’ll pray for you as we do now that the Lord will protect you and safely bring you home. Serve with honor soldiers. Make America proud!"
She then gave a less than forceful "hoo-ah" — the traditional Army cheer.
Thursday’s ceremony marks the second time the brigade has been deployed to Iraq.
In an interview Thursday with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, Palin spoke about her son’s decision to join the Army.
"What I know is that my son has made a decision," she told Gibson, "I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer."
Three of the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates have sons headed to Iraq or who have been there . Sen. Joe Biden’s son, Capt. Beau Biden, will also be deployed to Iraq in the next few weeks.
John McCain’s son, 19-year-old Marine Lance Corp. Jimmy McCain, just returned from a tour in the Anbar province of Iraq after a six-month deployment, but unlike his running mate, John McCain never mentions it on the stump.
That’s in stark contrast to Palin’s public highlighting of her son’s service, which has led some to question whether she has politicized Track’s deployment.
John Nagl, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security, told ABC News’ John Berman that these kinds of public announcements can be a double-edged sword.
"It is the mark of an enthusiastic and proud mother, but it does pose conceivably some risk on the soldier and the unit," Nagl said.
ABC News’ John Berman contributed to this report.