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Pa. reservists to go to Iraq

June 25, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Army Reserve Center in Chambersburg was a beehive of activity Saturday as the 150 members of its Headquarters Company prepared for deployment Monday for three months of training prior to shipping out for Iraq, a number of them for the second time.

"I don't know exactly," Sgt. Gerald Stauffer of Ephrata, Pa., said when asked why he volunteered to go back. "I like to make a difference ... They deserve to live better than what they were."

Stauffer, a mechanic and car salesman in civilian life, was in Iraq three years ago.

"I'm there to protect my brothers and sisters ... I love the military. They're a big family to me," said Spc. William Maegdlin of Pittsburgh, a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, who sported an 82nd Airborne Division patch on his right shoulder. He had been in the Army, then the National Guard and now is in the reserves.


"I saw a difference before we left the last time," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Nieves of Mount Holly, Pa., who also volunteered to return. A federal police officer with the Defense Logistics Agency in New Cumberland, Pa., he has a wife and two children.

"We're an internment and resettlement unit," said Lt. Col. Marion Garcia, the battalion commander. The unit, which will be working with prisoners of war, will train in Fort Bliss, Texas, before movement overseas, she said.

"Wherever they tell us to go," Garcia said when asked where the headquarters company will be stationed. "'Til mission completion" was the answer as to how long the deployment will last.

"I want to salute each and every one of you for the commitment and service you have made to your country," said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York, as he presented a state flag to the unit.

Punt, whose son, Chris, served 14 months in Iraq with the 25th Infantry Division, told soldiers what many of them already knew - that this is a war not of 50,000-man armies on a field of battle, but against small insurgent cells.

At Chambersburg's Memorial Park, soldiers and their families gathered for a day together, what Nieves called "mandatory fun time."

"I'm kind of scared to death ... I'm glad he doesn't know," said Amanda Cooper, daughter of Sgt. Stephen Cooper of Big Stone Gap, Va. She was at the park with her son, Camren, in a stroller, and Stephen Cooper's parents.

Cooper, 45, probably is rare among members of the unit in that he is a grandfather and served in the U.S. Navy during the Persian Gulf War, his family said.

"We're very concerned, worried, already looking ahead to the day he will return," Dale Hill said of his son, Kevin Hill of Frederick, Md., who is going on his first overseas deployment.

"Of course I'm concerned about his safety, given the reports from Iraq recently," said Kevin Hill's mother, Jo Ann. "No mother wants to send their child into harm's way."

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