Vermont deploys 30 National Guard members

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(Host) Thirty additional members of the Vermont Army National Guard are shipping out. They’ll be deployed with troops somewhere in Southwest Asia, North Africa or the Middle East. Its not known if any of them will be serving in the Iraqi War effort.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Major General Martha Rainville) “Today you’re getting ready to leave, to join up with other citizen soldiers, to deploy overseas in support of operation Enduring Freedom.”

(Zind) At a ceremony at guard headquarters in Colchester, Adjutant General Martha Rainville presented each of the men with small replicas of Green Mountain Boys Battle Flags. The thirty guardsmen will ship out in two groups. They don’t know where they’re going or when they’ll be back.

It was an emotional ceremony before a packed room of family members. Tammi Poulin of Newport watched as her husband Ryan prepared to leave. The two had planned a fall wedding, until he was called up.

(Poulin) “He was called on March 7, and we were married on the ninth, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I work for a company that’s allowed me to spend a lot of time here with Ryan. So that’s what I’ve been doing since last week, driving down.”

(Zind) Poulin says it’s been an anxious two weeks for the guards and their families.

(Poulin) “I think anyone about to be in harm’s way would be a total fool not to feel some fear. But that’s the true bravery of our men and women that serve in the armed forces, they face that fear and do their duty. And I’m so incredibly proud of him.”

(Zind) The guardsmen shipping out are drivers and mechanics. Frank Wood is a machinist from Canaan, New York and a truck driver in the guard. Wood says he’s feeling a little apprehensive, but at the same time looking forward to getting underway. He says his departure has been harder for his wife.

(Wood) “It really is tough on the families. We’ve had to say goodbye, ever ytime I go home it’s like a new goodbye and it’s really hard on the wife.”

(Zind) Tammi Poulin expressed admiration for war protesters, but she was upset when demonstrators stood outside National Guard headquarters last weekend. She was afraid the protest would hurt the morale of the guard members.

(Poulin) “The politics don’t even exist for me anymore. Someone I love is going into harm’s way, the why’s and the wherefores don’t even exist for me anymore.”

(Zind) Currently about one hundred and eighty members of the Vermont Air and Army National Guard are in active service overseas and in the United States.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind at Camp Johnson in Colchester.

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