The first evenings of separation for deployed National Guard soldiers from Lufkin and Nacogdoches have begun. They left early Tuesday morning to begin training before heading to Iraq. You can see it on their faces. Stoic when duty calls, but fragile when the heart strings of family tug away.
Those who have returned from deployments know the feeling. Staff Sgt. Philip Clark of Alto said, ( The separation) lessens a bit, I guess you kinda get adjusted to it, but you're always gonna miss your family. " Clark served in Iraq from August 2004 to January, 2006. Next to him is Sgt. John Cody of Nacogdoches who said, " I know when I was over there we were extended three different times. It's hard on the family. It's hard on you, but you're going to get through it." Cody served in Freedom Iraqi from February, 2003 to April, 2004.
The simple gestures kept the men going. Just like it can help the 28 soldiers and their families. Fathers like phone calls about every day life. That's according to Clark, a father of two. " If something went wrong at school, I was usually getting a phone call when I woke up. If something went good, I would get the same phone call, so that was good."
Husbands and fiancees like letters, recalled Cody, who was engaged at the time of his deployment. " She sent me probably 400 letters and I was only able to send about 30, but it's such a great feeling inside whenever I got letters from her."
Returning soldiers say they also enjoyed care packages and letters from kids. They may be from someone they don't even know, but it tells them there are folks out there thinking about them. The Army's Family Readiness Program also serves as a communication link.
The soldiers advise to look for the positive during the bleakest times. Cody believes absence made the heart grow fonder in his relationship. " I think we opened up to each other, that's one good thing. The separation was hard and especially the extensions were really hard. I think we moved our wedding date three times", he said with a laugh.