There was no parade when Ronald Sanders left Rock Hill last week to get on a plane.
No American flags for a guy who has spent 18 volunteer years coaching other York County parents' young kids on football fields.
No police escort or veterans on motorcycles snapping salutes. Just a solitary trip to the airport in Charlotte before heading to Mississippi, then Iraq.
There should have been more for this 44-year-old father of two daughters. Sanders left with no fanfare to fight this endless war in Iraq.
"He is gone, and it is faith that will get us through and faith that will get him home," said Patricia McCoy, one of Sanders' 10 brothers and sisters.
First Sgt. Sanders, an Army Reservist with 19 years of service who works in civilian life in information technology, is the face of the war that gets little notice. He left by himself because his normal unit, the 391st Reserves from York, has not been deployed.
But Sanders, who was activated from 2004 to 2006 at Columbia's Fort Jackson as a drill sergeant, who readied raw recruits for Iraq and Afghanistan and other places, was assigned to another unit that has been deployed.
He found out Jan. 20 he was leaving. Sanders had all of three days before he had to be in Mississippi for training to figure out how to take care of his life.
"I've been in 19 years; I knew this day was coming. I was ready in less than three days," Sanders said.
But that is the military man talking, a man who does his duty without asking why. The family man with responsibilities left, too.
Along with Ronald Hutchinson, Sanders coached the Raiders, a Gray-Y football team for middle school-age kids.
"Honest, hard-working, dedicated to the kids -- that describes Ronald Sanders," said Hutchinson. "He cared about so many kids in Rock Hill, wanted them to succeed."
Sanders' younger daughter is named Aja, 19, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina. Making sure his daughter has what she needs at school must now be handled by Aja, Sanders' ex-wife, Trina, and others in the family.
"I talked about it with the girls, they understand their father has a duty to go," Trina said.
About 40 percent of the soldiers who serve on active duty come from the National Guard and Reserves. Aja already knows that firsthand. "My father had to go on active duty when I was in high school, so I really had to skip my last two teenage years there and become independent," she said.
His older daughter, Sasha, is in Korea as an Army cook. After a year at Johnson & Wales University, she chose the Army. She went to basic training at Fort Jackson, and over the yells of her drill instructor, she could likely hear the yells of another drill instructor for a nearby unit. That other yell was her father, Ronald Sanders.
"The most important responsibility I have ever had besides my own children," Ronald Sanders said of training recruits who will face battle overseas. "And right there is my own daughter, going through the same thing with another instructor."
Sanders has family to watch out for his children while he's gone. He has New Zion Baptist Church praying for him.
"All I want is for people to know why I am gone," Sanders said. "I want them to know I will be back."
He will be the senior noncommissioned officer of the combat engineering unit he is attached to. "Noncoms," mainly sergeants who carry out the orders given by all those bigshot officers people see on television, are the men often called "the backbone of the military." What dozens of young area soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan have told me about "noncoms" is they keep young men alive in wars.
That is what 44-year-old Ronald Sanders is being sent to Iraq to do. Keep men younger than his own daughters alive, so all can come back to parades.
I hereby make a promise to Ronald Sanders. When he comes home in 14 months, if I have to honk my car horn and wave a flag, I will hold a parade myself for this great man.