News You Can Use: Dec. 28, 2004

  December 28, 2004, Volume
2, Issue 30

Index of Articles

Note: Topics below are now bookmarked!
Click on the underlined topic below to link to the pages on that topic.



Air National Guard Firefighters Bid Farewell To Friends And Family

Ceremony Held For Iraq-Bound 155th Unit Deployment Farewell


Bonuses Recruiting and Retention


Troops At Small
Iraqi Base Enjoy Better Food, Presents

Alone With Six
kids, Mom Feels Strain; Kelly Crawford Has Little Time To Stop And Think How
Hard It Is To Run A Family With Her Husband In Iraq.


Fear, Relief For Families After Attack On
Va. Unit

Family plans 2nd
Christmas Celebration When Husband Returns

Military Liaison
Helps Soldiers’ Families In Northwest Arkansas


Widow Still Frozen
In Time


Troops to Help Inaugurate State Commanders in Chief

Children Find Way To
Honor Deployed Dad At School



National Guard Family
Program Online Communities for families and youth:



TRICARE website for information on health



Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for
Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve (Note to those viewing this page in
Word or PDF format:
You may have to copy this address and
paste it into your browser’s address window.)



Cumulative roster of all
National Guard and Reserve who are currently on active duty



Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
contains links and information about schooling, distance education,
scholarships, and organizations devoted to the military family is a
website that helps military children with transition and deployment
issues.  It has some great features
for kids, parents, special needs families, school educators, and more—even
safe chat rooms for kids.



Disabled Soldiers Initiative (DS3)

This website provides information on the new DS3
program.  Through DS3, the Army
provides its most severely disabled Soldiers and their families with a system
of advocacy and follow-up.



Have an article, announcement,
or website that you’d like to share with the National Guard Family Program
Community?  Send your suggestions in
an e-mail to
[email protected].




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Va. Air National Guard Firefighters Bid Farewell To Friends And
– Printable Article

The Web’s Source for Fire,
Rescue & EMS

Jimmy Alexander
Virginia Air National Guard Fire & Rescue 192nd Fighter Wing

from the Virginia Air National Guard Fire & Rescue Department in Sandston
Virginia bid an emotional farewell to family and friends on December 19, 2004
for a 4-month deployment to an undisclosed location in Iraq.

Firefighters are members of the 192nd Fighter Wing based at Richmond
International Airport and are career Firefighters with several local
jurisdictions, including Chesterfield Co. and Henrico Co. Fire Departments.

Keeping in the
tradition of the military and the fire service, these brave men are
sacrificing everything to ensure the safety of our troops during a time of
war and are doing so unselfishly.

Please pray for their safe
return and keep their families, friends, and brother firefighters in your


To view more pictures please visit



Special Ceremony Held For Iraq-Bound 155th Unit
Deployment Farewell

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23 December

Janet Braswell

 Justin Jones, 7, clings to the side of his
mother, Linda Warren, who is wearing a T-shirt printed with a photograph of
her husband, Spc. Jerome Warren of the 155th Brigade Combat Team, after the
farewell pass and review for the team at Camp Shelby on Wednesday. The troops
will be deployed to Iraq in 2005.

 The 4,000 soldiers of the 155th Brigade
Combat Team left Camp Shelby Wednesday to spend the holidays with family
before adding another chapter to a history that pre-dates statehood.

The team
will deploy to Iraq next year with the name “Mississippi Rifles”
taken from the oldest unit of the Mississippi National Guard‘s 155th Armored Brigade.

a proud unit that’s served in every war America has had and we’ll accomplish
our mission, whatever that might be,” said Spc. Wesley Tagert, 31, of
Richland, a student at Mississippi State University before the brigade was
activated in August.

proud to go over there,” he said. “I’ve been in that part of the
world twice. It may be a tough mission, but one we can accomplish.”

About 3,500
Mississippi soldiers make up the core of the team, which also represents
troops from Arkansas and Vermont.

standing on the field before me today know what’s at stake,” said Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “You will all do your duty. You will
come home successful. Mississippi Rifles, stand fast. Godspeed and God bless

Mississippi Rifles were formed in 1798.

Thousands of
family and friends filled the 3,000-bleacher seats and spilled over onto the
edges of the parade ground for the traditional farewell pass and review by
the troops.

not happy about it at all,” said Cheryl Kendricks Rankin of Jackson.
“I think it’s senseless. The National
is supposed to be for homeland. It’s supposed to be weekends for
them. They’re giving up a year or two. We have too many young men dying over

Her son,
Master Sgt. Ashley Rankin, 25, was majoring in information systems at the
University of Southern Mississippi when he was called to active duty.

all right about it,” he said. “No one wants to go, but I signed the
paper, so let’s go and get it over with.”

Pam Cobb
drove from Myrtle to be at the ceremony with her brother, Spc. James Smithey,
41, of New Albany.

sad,” Cobb said. “He’s got three kids at home. We just hate for him
to be gone. We’ll miss him and be thinking about him daily. We’re proud that
he’s serving his country.”

Smithey will
miss his oldest daughter’s high school graduation and a year’s worth of
birthdays and other milestones. “They’re doing real good now, but when I
first got called up, they were pretty upset,” he said.

families shoulder a large burden when the National Guard is called to service, said Reginald Brown, assistant
Secretary of the Army. “Your families, they will be making the true
sacrifice because they will not have your company,” Brown said. “I
want them to know their country is grateful to them.”

With recent
news reports about a lack of armor on some vehicles in use in Iraq and the
attack Monday on a dining hall in Mosul where 13 U.S. service members were
killed, families are uneasy about the deployment.

can’t hide from that kind of stuff,” said Gloria Rawson of Hattiesburg.
Her son, Staff Sgt. Scott Rawson of Meridian, is in the 155th.

proud of him, but I worry about a lot about him,” she said. “I
don’t let him know it.”

Don Rawson
shares his wife’s worries. “I’m a little apprehensive, but I’m proud of
him,” he said.

The brigade
will be the first to move into Iraq with all of its vehicles armored, said
Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, Mississippi’s adjutant general.

means you’re the best equipped,” he said. “I can also tell the
crowd that you’re the best trained.”




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Guard Bonuses Recruiting and Retention


National Guard Bureau

22 DEC 04



Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, (703) 607-2647, Cell (202) 438-4115

By Master
Sgt. Bob Haskell

Va. – The chief of the National Guard
Bureau is bearing gifts of gold to some Citizen-Soldiers in the Army National Guard during this holiday

 The gold is in the form of substantial
increases in enlistment and reenlistment bonuses that LTG H Steven Blum
announced at the Pentagon on Dec. 16. Some of the bonuses will be increased
from $5,000 to $15,000. All but one is for enlisted personnel.

increased bonuses for this fiscal year are earmarked for new Guard Soldiers
who have never served in uniform, for people who join the Army Guard after
serving on active duty, and for Guard Soldiers who agree to reenlist for
three or six years.

promised many Army Guard Soldiers he met with during recent trips to Iraq and
Afghanistan that he would announce the increased bonuses in December and that
they would be impressed.

 Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers make up
nearly 40 percent of the 148,000 troops in Iraq, and 42,000 Guard Soldiers
are serving in Iraq and Kuwait, officials reported.  Another 8,200 are serving in Afghanistan. Blum said that
approximately 100,000 Guard Soldiers have been on active duty at home or
abroad at any given time since terrorists attacked this country on Sept. 11,

increased bonuses are an effort to improve the Army Guard’s recruiting and
retention efforts during the global war on terrorism and build the Army Guard
back up to its authorized strength of 350,000 troops.           

The bonus
increases for fiscal year 2005 include:

— An
increase in reenlistment and extension bonuses for enlisted people from
$5,000 to $15,000.

— An
increase from $5,000 to $15,000 for prior service enlisted people who enlist
in the Army Guard for six years. That includes former active duty members of
the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard who have fulfilled their
military service obligation.

 — An increase in enlistment bonuses from
$8,000 to $10,000 for people without prior service who sign up for one of the
Army Guard’s “top 10” military occupational specialties, such as the infantry,
military police and transportation.


   — A $6,000 bonus for newly commissioned
officers and warrant officers and for officers who have served on active

   — A $2,000 bonus for enlisted Guard
Soldiers who agree to be retrained for a military occupational specialty to
meet the needs of the Army Guard provided the Soldiers are not receiving any
other incentives.           

Soldiers will receive a lump sum for reenlisting. New Guard Soldiers joining
the military for the first time and those with prior service will be given a
50-50 payment schedule.

Those who
join the Army Guard’s enlisted ranks who still have a military service
obligation following their active duty tours will be eligible for a $50 bonus
for each remaining month of their obligation, it was explained. They can then
receive a $15,000 bonus if they reenlist in the Guard.

eligibility for receiving reenlistment bonuses has been extended by two
years. Guard Soldiers previously could not receive a bonus after 14 years of
service. They are now eligible for up to 16 years.

 Blum has also promised to double the
Student Loan Repayment Program – from $10,000 to $20,000 – for non-prior
service people who have existing loans when they enlist.

The Army
Guard will also offer Montgomery GI Bill Kickers of between $200 and $350 per
month to non-prior service people who are enrolled in colleges or vocational
schools provided they are already receiving GI Bill benefits.

“We’re in a
more difficult recruiting environment,” Blum told news reporters. “There’s no
question that when you have a sustained ground combat operation going that
the Guard’s participating in, that makes recruiting more difficult.”

The Army
Guard is adding 1,400 recruiters to its nationwide recruiting force –
increasing it from 2,700 to 4,100 – over the next three months, Blum

The Guard
Bureau chief also said the Guard will change its recruiting message to more
accurately reflect the fact that many Citizen-Soldiers are now pulling tours
of duty overseas for at least a year.

 “We are correcting, frankly, some of our
recruiting themes and slogans to reflect the reality of today,” Blum told The
Washington Post. “We’re not talking about one weekend a month and two weeks a
year and college tuition. We’re talking about service to the nation.”

 People interested in obtaining more
information about the increased bonuses can call their local Army National Guard recruiters.




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Troops At Small Iraqi Base Enjoy Better Food,


The Dallas
Morning News

26, 2004, Sunday

Gretel C. Kovach

ISTIQLAAL, Iraq – A cold rain and rifle rounds fell on Baghdad, Iraq, on
Christmas Day, and Santa had to wear a costume bulky enough to cover his
helmet and body armor.

But troops
from the 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the reserve and
guard units nationwide assigned to Task Force 1/9 at Camp Istiqlaal (which
means ” independence” in Arabic) still had some jolly times.

The small
base in central Baghdad, commonly called Headhunter, is well known among the
soldiers for its bad food. Instead of hunks of mystery meat or tasteless
macaroni, on Christmas Day the soldiers were treated to lavish holiday
spreads for both lunch and dinner.

gravy, sweet potatoes, pecan pie, eggnog _ they had it all.

Some troops
were saluted on the way into the mess hall by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
otherwise known as Pvt. 2nd Class Anthony Brooks, 21, from Los Angeles, who
spent the day in costume.

“I was
running around hugging people, letting them pull my tail. They got a kick out
of it,” he said. “We’re trying to make everybody happy, trying to
make them feel at home.”

fabulous. I really got into the Christmas spirit because of it,” said
Sgt. Rowe Stayton, 53, from Denver. “Of course I’d rather be home, but I
appreciate what they did.”

in black Stetson hats served punch flowing from a fountain next to a large
gingerbread house. And the guy in the kitchen dishing up slices of ham and
shaking hands with the soldiers turned out to be Col. Mike Murray, 44, the
3rd Brigade Combat Team commander from Kenton, Ohio, visiting from his
downtown base.

Sgt. Adam
Ewing, 25, from Fort Hood, said the Headhunter staff really knows how to
support the troops during the holidays. On Thanksgiving Day, the mess hall
workers at the former Iraqi air force base had dressed as pilgrims.

“It’s a
way for the commanders to show the soldiers they care. People in the rear
know they’re not forgotten out here,” he said.

The soldiers
stationed at Camp Independence may be separate from the large full-service
bases near Baghdad International Airport and the Green Zone, which houses top
commanders and coalition authorities.

But they are
on the front lines of some of the most consistent violence in Baghdad
surrounding nearby Haifa Street.

insurgents didn’t take the day off, and neither did the soldiers. Capt. Chris
Ford, 29, from Overland Park, Kan., and the Charlie Company from the 1st
Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment started Christmas Day with a 3 a.m. sweep
through Haifa Street and surrounding areas.

soldiers, aside from those who caught some sleep after the early morning
raid, hit the phone banks first thing Christmas morning.

Sgt. 1st
Class Terry Paden, 45, originally from Dallas, called Tylitha, his wife of 24
years in Albuquerque, N.M., to thank her for being so supportive during his

just really special. When you’ve been married so many years and they don’t
want you to go but know this is what you want…” he said, thinking of
the care packages she sent him and his maintenance crew filled with Hamburger
Helper, a fancy thermometer and other thoughtful little gifts.

enjoyed the festive atmosphere with their military family.

First Lt.
Christina Adams, from Poolesville, Md., who turned 24 on Christmas Day,
looked around the dining hall full of soldiers and said, “This is the
next best thing. If I can’t be home for the holidays with my family, I want
to be with them.”

family, surrogate or otherwise, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without
presents under the tree. So Capt. T.J. Foley, 29, commander of Charlie
Company, Arkansas National Guard 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry
Regiment, helped distribute gifts sent from Batten & Shaw, the construction
firm where he works as a project engineer.

companies shipped presents to the military in Iraq, and Batten & Shaw,
which is based in Nashville, Tenn., sent 27 large boxes, from DVDs and
Walkmans to socks. “They didn’t want any soldier to not have something
to open on Christmas morning,” Foley said.

Drowning out
the sounds of the power generators on base and the crackle of gunfire outside
its walls was the Task Force 1/9 band, Headhunter Main with special guests,
who rocked the mess hall with a Christmas concert.

The crowd
laughed to hear their rendition of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,”
complete with “Three gre-eh-nades, two RPGs and a sniiiper in Building
93.” But it was the 12th day that really got them going.

“And on
the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me … a 12-month

The Task
Force 1/9 soldiers shouted and groaned, “Nooo!”


Alone With Six kids, Mom Feels Strain; Kelly
Crawford Has Little Time To Stop And Think How Hard It Is To Run A Family
With Her Husband In Iraq.

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Press Herald (Maine)

26, 2004 Sunday

By Kelley
Bouchard Staff Writer

Kelly Crawford is quick to point out that many Maine families are dealing
with the same fears, frustrations and difficulties of having loved ones
serving in Iraq. “Just multiply mine,” she says.

January, her husband, Todd, shut down his fledgling law practice and left
their six young children and a rambling 1800s farmhouse in her care. He is a
lieutenant with the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer
Battalion stationed at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq.

Except for
two weeks in early September, when her husband was home on leave, Kelly
Crawford has been holding down the fort. She’s a petite powerhouse, so
lugging firewood, baking bread and carting the kids to soccer camp and dance
lessons are duties that get done.

Many people
in this close-knit community are pitching in to help, especially during the
holidays. Still, going it alone has strained her patience, her politics and
her emotions. Day in, day out, she is shouldering responsibility meant for

is no break,” says Crawford, 42. “I can’t get sick. I can’t depend
on him to pick up the slack. I don’t want to sound selfish, but there is no
‘me’ time. There is no refueling time.”

Before the
war, Kelly and Todd Crawford were inseparable for most of their 14-year
marriage. Now they stay in touch by telephone, e-mail and Web camera, which
gives them staggered but precious images of each other. On Christmas, Kelly
extended the Web cam to the living room so Todd could watch the children open
their gifts.

Each day
after school, the older Crawford children arrive home in a noisy mob, eager
to send instant messages to their father, who is eight hours ahead and stays
up late to “chat” with his wife and kids.

“I miss
them terribly,” Todd Crawford, 39, said in a recent instant-message
interview. “But I have a brave crew.”

Not so brave
all the time. Bailey, who is 7, and Cubby, who is 5, have been most deeply
affected by their father’s absence. They don’t really understand why their
father is gone, and any mention of the danger he faces only upsets them more.

When Kelly
Crawford told her children that their father survived Tuesday’s suicide bombing
of the dining hall at Marez, Bailey ran out of the room crying. Kelly often
finds herself crying, too, but not for long.

afraid if I let myself go, I won’t be able to pick myself up, and I have too
many people depending on me,” she says. “I think one of the reasons
that I’m able to get through this is because I’m honest. If someone asks me
how I’m doing and I’m having a bad day, I tell them.”


The Crawford
household resonates with love and constant activity. Cubby can’t wait to take
his snowy boots off before showing his mother the star-shaped Christmas tree
decoration he made at school. Bailey giggles almost uncontrollably and
practices pirouettes in the playroom that Kelly is renovating with help from

Just up from
a nap, 2-year-old twins Emma and Gard tease the cat and contribute to the
afternoon frenzy. Helen, 11, and Alexandra, 9, take turns sending instant
messages to their father from what used to be his home office. It’s smaller
since Kelly renovated and expanded the first-floor bathroom.

After the
children go to bed, usually around 8 p.m., Crawford’s day gets even busier.
“That’s when I vacuum, dust, do laundry, iron. I try to get to bed by 11
because I’m up at 6.” She rarely gets a full night’s sleep because she
is hearing impaired and awakens often, fearful that one of her children might
need her.

Despite the
demands of running a household, Crawford insists on making most of their
meals from scratch. Breads, cookies, lasagna, quiche, you name it.
“Prepared foods are too expensive,” Crawford says, “and I
pride myself in making sure my kids eat good food.”


In her
husband’s absence, she has come to appreciate what a good father he is. She
knew it all along, since he took so easily to her son, Beau, who was 9 when
the couple married. She wasn’t really surprised when his paternal instincts
cropped up in Iraq, where he has befriended two children in the nearby
village of Dahuk.

warned him to stay away from the brother and sister, ages 6 and 4, because
they were Gypsies, a persecuted ethnic group also known as Roma.

Crawford was
undeterred. At his request, Kelly sent them coats, shoes and toys. He looks
for them every time he visits Dahuk, worried that his attention and gifts
will make them targets for other villagers. He wonders whether they have
parents and jokes with Kelly that he’d like to find a way to bring them home
with him.

She knows
he’s not really joking.

why I say to him, ‘Are we going to have two more children when you come
back?’ Because it wouldn’t be unlike him,” Crawford says.

It’s also
not unlike him to go where duty calls. The Crawfords met when he was in the
Navy. She knows how much the military means to him. Still, it makes her

“I was
pretty pissed,” Crawford says. “There was no question when he was
reactivated that he was going to war. He was going to protect his country. He
was going to protect his family. He was going to lead his men. I’m proud of
what he’s doing, but if he ever does it again, I’m out of here. I told him
I’d shoot him; I’d cut off a leg to keep him from going again. He thinks I’m
sadistic. He doesn’t see much humor in it, and I don’t think it’s funny,

That anger
creeps back occasionally. When people thank her for the sacrifice she’s
making, she understands where they’re coming from, but she has to quell her

not doing this willingly,” Crawford says. “I support my husband and
I support the men and women in what they’re doing. I don’t support what
they’re being told to do. They’re doing good things, building schools,
building roads. But he went there under a different assumption . . . But he
has to stay on task, he has to stay on mission. You can’t stop what you’re
doing because you were lied to. He’s going to work his ass off, do what he
has to do and get back here as soon as possible.”


In the
meantime, Crawford finds solace in the community’s outpouring of support.
When local lawyers learned she couldn’t afford to send the kids to soccer
camp this year, they took up a collection to make it happen. When she was
racing to stack firewood before snowfall, Rick Marcella, a teacher at
Bridgton Academy, sent three students to help her out. And when fellow
members of the First Congregational Church realized how overwhelming her
husband’s absence had become, they volunteered to take turns making dinner
for the family every Sunday and Wednesday.

don’t know how she does it with all these little ones,” Jeannine
Robinson said recently as she delivered a steaming pot of American chop suey
and homemade biscuits. “We think an awful lot of them and we want Todd
to know we’re taking care of them.”

Crawford is
grateful for the help and the concern. Her biggest frustration is waiting and
worrying, especially when she hears news like last Tuesday’s bombing that
killed two Mainers. Her husband had left the building five minutes before the
blast, but it was several hours before she heard from him.

As she
struggles to keep it all together, she recognizes that she must choose her
battles. Things that might otherwise ruin her day have become much less
important. Like when the clothes dryer’s heating element recently died. Or
when the power steering on her Chevy Suburban went out. Or when she withdrew
$20 from a cash machine and left the money behind.

all so trivial,” Crawford says. “I just keep going. I can’t stop
and feel sorry for myself for too long. My God, some people lost their loved
ones the other day. My husband is alive and hopefully will be home in six

Kelly Crawford
with her daughter Bailey, 7, in their Bridgton home last week. She and her
husband, Lt. Todd Crawford, have six young children at home. He is now in
Iraq, based in Mosul.




Back to Table of Contents


Relief For Families After Attack On Va. Unit


Washington Post
December 22, 2004
By Chris L. Jenkins

RICHMOND, Dec. 21 — The call came to
Patricia Otto’s home at dawn, waking her from a restless sleep. Her husband,
Lt. Shawn Otto, a 40-year-old soldier stationed with the Virginia National Guard in Iraq, was on the
other end of the line.

“He said, ‘I just want you to know
that I’m okay,’ ” she recalled from her Williamsburg home. ”
‘You’re going to hear about some horrible stuff that’s happened today. I
can’t say anything more . . . but I’m okay.’ “

Thus began a day of fear, relief and
sorrow for Trish Otto, 38, and dozens of others with loved ones in the
Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, the Virginia National Guard unit that was among those attacked Tuesday by
Iraqi insurgents outside the northern city of Mosul.

There was relief for families that heard
directly from relatives telling them they had survived. There was fear,
because others hadn’t had any direct reports. There was sorrow because family
members felt the pain of others whose worst fears might have been confirmed.

According to the Richmond
Times-Dispatch, which has reporters embedded with the unit, two of the
battalion’s soldiers were killed in the attack.

“We have not been able to confirm
any of those reports,” Lt. Col. Chester Carter III, a Virginia National Guard spokesman, said
Tuesday afternoon.

Despite extensive news reporting on the
attack, the families had little direct information.

“That’s the hardest part about this
for so many,” said Melissa Doss, 32, of Henrico County. She did know
that her husband, Capt. Chris Doss, also 32, was not wounded.

As the organizer for families of the
guardsmen, she had received a flurry of e-mails and calls from worried people
looking for answers.

“It’s been a hard, hard day,”
Doss said. “Many of the families are in turmoil, trying to understand
what’s happened and if their loved ones are okay.”

Just two weeks ago, the support group
held a family day for the soldiers’ children and spouses.

Virginia’s leaders expressed support for
the families of the guardsmen, who have been in Iraq since March and are
scheduled to come home by the first week of March 2005.

“This further reinforces the
enormous sacrifice . . . of these citizen soldiers,” Gov. Mark R. Warner
(D) said in front of the governor’s mansion. Warner said he had spent time
with the battalion exactly a year ago Tuesday, as they were being deployed to
Fort Dix, N.J., before shipping out for Iraq.

“These are our bravest men and
women who are putting their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we
all enjoy,” state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R) said.

The 276th Engineer Battalion, which
Virginia Guard officials said can trace its history to Colonial times, has a
mission that is shared by companies throughout the war-torn country: finding
and removing land mines, securing bridges, building fortifications. Its
soldiers also are responsible for securing the border with Syria, where many
insurgents are thought to be slipping though.

The battalion’s soldiers number more
than 500 and range in age from their early twenties to early fifties. Its
three companies are based in Powhatan and West Point, in the Richmond area,
and Cedar Bluff, in southwestern Virginia.

They secured Virginia’s two nuclear
plants after the Sept. 11 attacks and have helped raze a dilapidated housing
facility in nearby Petersburg.

Then, last December, the 276th became
one of several Virginia Guard units called up for service in Iraq or

Several family members said the soldiers
had experienced the war’s violence: an attack on their mess tent or a nearby
explosion in the middle of the night. But family members said that the
guardsmen considered themselves lucky that they had not suffered any fatalities
during their stay in one of Iraq’s most dangerous regions.

“We just want them home,” said
Millie Byler, grandmother of Evan Byler, 26, a soldier who has been injured
twice but was reported to be okay after this latest attack. “We just
want them home.”



Family plans 2nd Christmas Celebration When
Husband Returns

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Associated Press State & Local Wire

26, 2004, Sunday

By Dan
Murtaugh, Mobile Register


Ala. – It was Christmas day, and in Debbie Bryars’ home the stockings were
hanging above a small fire, the floor was covered in toys and wrapping paper,
and the family held hands in the kitchen as Bryars said a prayer before

But for
Bryars, Saturday was only a “practice” Christmas.

The real
thing won’t happen until her husband, Sgt. Kevin Bryars, returns from Iraq,
where he’s stationed with the 711th Signal Battalion of the Alabama Army National

leaving the tree up,” she said. “If the neighbors have to look at
garland and lights in March, they’re still going to be there.”

Bryars is
one of thousands spending Christmas without their spouse because of the
conflict in Iraq. The 711th, which is based in Bay Minette, Foley and Atmore,
left for the Middle East in January.

battalion has about 700 troops, making it one of the larger Alabama units to
be deployed to Iraq since the war began.

Bryars said
the holidays have been the toughest time, but she has gotten through them
because of faith, family and long-distance phone calls.

Most of the
soldiers in the 711th are expected to return by early spring, although about
50 will be coming home this week, said Rebecca Caudill, head of the local
family support group for the battalion.

husband, Sgt. Richard Caudill, will be among the early arrivals, but she
still had to spend Christmas without him. She said she missed their ritual of
opening their presents to each other on Christmas Eve, before putting gifts
for their two children under the tree.

very emotional for the women whose husbands aren’t there to share the
holidays with them,” she said.

Despite the
sadness of a holiday apart from her husband, Bryars said she’s proud of what
he is doing in Iraq. When he came home for a two-week visit in October, he
told his wife about a 3-year-old boy who blew kisses to the troops as they
passed by.

Earlier this
week, Kevin Bryars and some of his fellow troops tried to bring a little
holiday cheer to Iraq, Bryars said.

told me they were hooking up surround-sound at the mother board for
communications, and they’re going to be putting on Chevy Chase, National
Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Bryars said.

Bryars said
that she knew the holidays could be tough: Her worst day since her husband
left was Easter, when he couldn’t call because the phone lines were so tied
up and she cried all day.

There were
no tears Saturday.

Kevin Bryars
called home at 5 a.m. and talked to Debbie and her two children from a
previous marriage, 9-year-old Blake and 7-year-old Bethany, as he opened the
presents they had shipped him. Bryars said the presents were mostly small
items, like DVDs, so he could pack them easily when he came home.

Bryars had
the extra support of her sister, Julie Thomaston, who also has a husband in
Iraq. Sgt. Dan Thomaston works alongside Kevin Bryars in the 711th.

The two also
have another sister whose husband is in Turkey with the Air Force.

is the hardest part, the holidays,” Julie Thomaston said. “But it’s
been a blessing having my sister here.”

other family members also gathered at Bryars’ home in Stapleton on Saturday.
The adults spoke in the kitchen while children played with newly unwrapped
toys. Blake drove his remote-controlled Hummer around the living room as
Thomaston’s 1-year-old daughter, Morgan, squealed with glee.

Bethany wore
around her neck a dogtag Kevin Bryars sent her from Iraq, with the
inscription “From Daddy with love. U.S. Army, Iraq 2004.”

She said she
got “a thousand” presents, but she didn’t get the one thing she
wanted the most.

wrote Santa a letter,” she said, then grabbed a nearby notebook and

“All I
want for Christmas is for my Daddy to come home.”



Military Liaison Helps Soldiers’ Families In
Northwest Arkansas

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 The Associated Press State & Local Wire

26, 2004, Sunday

– Military families who need assistance are finding help from 20 family
assistance coordinators stationed around Arkansas.

Wilson helps in Rogers, where she works at the National Guard Armory
answering questions about how to fix leaky pipes and broken vehicles and
offering advice about balancing monthly bills and finding childcare.

community is not aware of all the people that are needing help,” Wilson
said. “I want to be here for you.”

Wilson said
she handles questions from more than 80 military familes from all branches of
the service. She connects them with people who can help them solve their
problems, she said.





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Widow Still Frozen In Time


The Daily



By Stanley
B. Chambers Jr.

N.C. – The message on the answering machine in the Winterville home is a
simple one.

“Hey, Dawn, it’s me,” the voice
says. “Just calling to say good night. I love you. I miss you. I’m
heading back out in the field, so I won’t be able to talk to you in a couple
of days, and I’ll call you when I get back in.”

those words were left more than a year ago by someone who won’t be coming
home. Capt. Chris Cash, speaking in the message to his wife, Dawn, was killed
near Baqubah, Iraq, on June 24 when his armored vehicle came under attack.

36, a company commander with the N.C. Army National Guard, was shot as he shouted from the hatch of his
vehicle for his men to take cover. Cash grew up in Old Orchard Beach and
graduated from Old Orchard Beach High School.

Dawn, many aspects of life have been frozen since that day in June. She calls
home at least once a week just to hear Chris’ message, left while he was
training in Georgia. Chris’ parents, who live in Maine, call as well.

has no plans to erase the message. She can recite the words from memory; she
plays it every night before going to bed. She also has kept the outgoing
message Chris recorded.

brown dress shoes still sit in front of his clothes hamper next to the
bedroom dresser. In the hamper are clothes left in February right before he
was deployed.

Dawn’s fourth finger, left hand is her wedding ring and engagement band. On
the middle finger of her left hand is Chris’ white gold wedding band,
engraved with “I love you, 8-4-01.” Aug. 4, 2001, is the day they
were married.

you go through something like this, you don’t want to face the reality that
things have changed,” she said. “It’s hard to describe; you don’t
want things to change, so you’re not going to change with them.”

have been changes in her life, though. Tears, which can come without warning,
tend to ruin her makeup on bad days. She also finds herself attending
memorials and other military-related events. Recently, she spoke at an East
Carolina University graduation ceremony.

late November, it was a military appreciation breakfast at the Ramada Inn.
Dawn, another military widow and the parents of a 20-year-old whose son
served with Chris shared their stories of losing a loved one, and the country
singing group Shedaisy performed a few songs.

one that struck a chord with Dawn was “Come Home Soon,” a song about
the life of a military wife whose husband is deployed.

song just cut to the heart, because you know that your soldier is not coming
home and that you will be dying alone,” Dawn said.


Chris was
supposed to come home in March 2005. He had two sons from a previous
marriage, but the couple wanted to start their own family.

had made his home in eastern North Carolina while attending East Carolina
University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health and fitness in
1997 and a master’s in health education in 2002.

first marriage had ended in 1994, and he met Dawn, an accountant for a local
accounting firm, in 1999 when a mutual friend introduced them. Chris was
ecstatic when Dawn told him in April she was training for a 10-mile run. Her
exercise regimen had included aerobics and weight training, but she didn’t
run much before meeting Chris.

his death, she didn’t run at all. Eating wasn’t much of an option, either.

body did not want it,” she said. “Even the thought of food would
make me sick.”

a month after Cash’s funeral, Dawn finally went for a run with one of Chris’
running buddies. Now, she’s out running up to five times a week, running for
about 20 minutes and then walking for one minute, doing the routine for up to
six miles.

makes me feel connected to Chris, since he loved to run so much,” she
said. “It helps to clear your mind; it helps wash everything from your
brain. I know it sounds weird, but I feel Chris beside me when I run.”

also visits Chris’ grave in Pinewood Cemetery on N.C. 33 a few times a week.
“I feel closer to him here,” she said. “Especially in the
summer, I would take my journal out there and write.”

wrote letters to Chris in the journal, telling him of the events in her life,
her thoughts and feelings and how proud she is for what he had done in Iraq.
She supports the decision to send U.S. troops to Iraq, she said.

believed with all his heart in their reasons for being in Iraq,” she
said. “He believed in giving people the life they deserved to

she becomes frustrated with media accounts of the situation in Iraq because
she feels they’re not telling the entire story. Chris’ unit provided security
for the town of Balad Ruz, protecting schoolchildren and helping create a
water system for farmers. She was told Chris was well liked by the town’s
mayor and citizens.

the death and destruction that is reported from Iraq continues to upset her,
she still tunes in. Some of Chris’ men are still over there. Dawn is also
taking steps to come to terms with her loss; one step involves a weekly
appointment with a grief counselor.

 It was
about seven weeks after Chris’ death when she first saw the counselor on the
recommendation of a friend. Their meeting day varies upon each other’s
schedule, but the topic is the same – what happened to Chris and how she is
dealing with it.

able to let me talk and get out my feelings,” Dawn said. “She just
sits there and listens and tells me I’m not crazy, that this is all

sessions last about an hour; Dawn doesn’t know when they’ll end.

don’t know, that’s one of the issues I’m dealing with,” she said.
“Before he left, I knew what my future was. It was going to be with him
and us starting our family. Now, I don’t know what my future is. Honestly,
you can’t think that far in the future. You just think about the next day,
how you’re going to survive the next day.”

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Troops to Help Inaugurate State Commanders in Chief


Forces Press Service

21 December

Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA

Va., Dec. 21, 2004 — National Guard
troops in 11 states and Puerto Rico are preparing for some post-holiday
festivities in January. They will take part, in one way or another, in the
inaugurations for their state commanders in chief — their governors.

events like the inaugurations, National
soldiers and airmen get to take part in a public celebration while
supporting state and local law enforcement agencies in the name of homeland

elections were held in American Samoa, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana,
New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, the
state of Washington, and West Virginia in November.

there was a gubernatorial election, there will be an inauguration early in
the new year, said a spokesman for the National Governors Association. The
inaugurations will begin as early as Jan. 2, if a winner is declared in
Puerto Rico, and will last practically until George W. Bush is inaugurated
for a second term as president in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20.

troops are expected to take part in every state inauguration except in
American Samoa, which does not have a National

is pulling out all of the stops for Gov.-elect Matt Blunt, according to Guard
officials in the “Show Me” State, who have prepared Operation Order
05-05 with the catchy subtitle “Show-Me Smooth Transition” for the
Jan. 10 inaugural festivities in Jefferson City.

order calls for the 35th Engineer Brigade to have a Quick Reaction Force
ready to roll in case of an emergency. Members of Missouri’s 7th Weapons of
Mass Destruction Civil Support Team and the state’s newly minted team of
Guard people trained to help emergency responders and victim’s deal with
weapons of mass destruction will also be on duty or on call.

new team is one of 12 Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or
High-Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Packages that have been trained
and evaluated across the country within the last year. Called CERFP teams,
they can be deployed to wherever they are needed, including other states, to
provide medical aid and decontamination support for civil authorities during
the inaugural season.

nation’s 32 Army-certified Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams
can also serve in other states.

Missouri Guard troops, meanwhile, are preparing to take part in the pomp and
ceremony of Blunt’s inauguration.

state’s 135th Army Band will perform; F-16 fighters from the Missouri Air
Guard’s 131st Fighter Wing will perform a flyover over Jefferson City, the
state capital; and members of the 135th Field Artillery Brigade will fire a
19- gun salute to the new governor at high noon on Jan. 10.

estimated 40 members of the Indiana Guard will participate in the two days of
ceremonies for that state’s Gov.-elect Mitch Daniels in Indianapolis on Jan.
9-10, explained Capt. Lisa Kopczynski, the Indiana Guard’s spokeswoman.

Hoosier Guard members will provide protocol personnel for gala events
scheduled for the day before the Jan. 10 inauguration. They will escort
Daniels to the inaugural ceremony, post the nation’s and state’s colors, fire
an artillery salute, and provide protocol personnel for an open house in
which members of the public can meet the new governor.

state of Washington’s National Guard
will provide an honor guard of 40 volunteers for the Jan. 12 inaugural ball
at the state capital in Olympia, explained retired Col. Rick Patterson, the
Washington Military Department’s spokesman.

state’s inauguration committee maintains that the ball will take place even
though all election results have not been tabulated. The National Governor’s
Association reports that Dino Rossi has been certified as the winner of a
machine recount, but the hand count is still going on. Stay tuned, Patterson

Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)  



Children Find Way To Honor Deployed Dad At School

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December 22,

N.C. — While their loved ones fight for Iraq’s freedom, the families of
deployed troops have a battle of their own — trying to celebrate the
holidays without a family member.

Scott Boyle has been deployed with the North Carolina National Guard in Iraq for 10 months. Every Monday and Wednesday
morning, his children are in charge of raising the American flag outside of
their school.

Two young
children are doing that by turning a school ritual into a way of honoring
their father.

 For a
lot of families, Christmas can be a hectic time with a lot of rushing around.
For the Boyle family, it is a time of waiting and worry.

night, Parker was laying in the bed with Daddy’s picture just crying,”
Pam Boyle said of her 6-year-old son.

Scott Boyle has been deployed with the North Carolina National Guard in Iraq for 10 months.

picture hangs on a small tree at Rand Road Elementary honoring the deployed.


know dad’s on the firing line, dad’s risking his life every minute for our
own safety here at home. We want the kids to know we’re thinking of
them,” said Linda Pearson of Rand Road Elementary.

school has also given Parker, and his sister, Tanner, 7, a special task.

Monday and Wednesday morning, they are in charge of raising the American flag
outside their school.

act like they’re honoring their dad by doing it. They love doing it, so we
have to get up early a couple mornings a week,” Pam Boyle said.

task is a special way to deal with feelings of sadness and fear.

scary, because you don’t know where he’s at at times and you never know if
he’s hurt or not,” Tanner said.

Army has not told Boyle’s family the specific date when he will be coming
home. He hopes to be home before Tanner’s birthday on Jan. 7. He missed her
birthday last year due to his deployment.

Megan Hughes

Producer: Michelle Singer



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