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Pa. soldiers get flame-grilled sendoff before deployment to Iraq

July 19, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Heather Preece knew when she started dating Lt. Reed Preece of the Army National Guard that one day he would be called upon by Uncle Sam to put himself in harm's way.

What she did not know was when he would receive the call.

With less than two months before her husband leaves with his troop, Preece said she is preparing to trade one waiting game for another -- to trade the uncertainty of his deployment for the hope of his return.

Lt. Preece and the 66 soldiers of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's Troop C, 2-104th Cavalry (RSTA), will deploy to Iraq in September, but before the soldiers embark on the one-year mission, they received one last, flame-grilled Saturday afternoon with their families.

United Auto Workers Local 1296 of Johnson Controls Frick Co. in Waynesboro, Pa., welcomed more than 230 soldiers, wives, mothers, fathers and children Saturday to the Kauffman Community Center to relax, picnic and enjoy the precious remaining moments with the men and women of the troop.

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The September deployment will be the first time that Waynesboro has sent its own to fight in combat during the current campaigns. Walter Early, chairman of UAW Local 1296's Veterans Committee, said the committee wanted to do something special to say thank you.

Troop Commander Capt. John Wenzel said now is the time for those left behind to prepare for the absence of their soldier.

"They (the families) will be stuck doing not only what they have always done, but will have to fill in and do what their soldier once did, and now is the time to prepare for that absence," he said.

While Wenzel said he is unsure of the exact mission that his troop will do on the deployment, he assured families that their solider will be trained to do what needs to be done.

"It is my job to make sure they are ready and each one can do his or her job," he said.

Spc. Roger Yeager Jr. said his troop is ready for the mission.

"There is no doubt that we are definitely ready," he said. "I have a good feeling about the men I serve with and we all serve under a great guy (Wenzel)."

Just be safe, Roger Yeager Sr. said to his son.

"Do your job and we will be here waiting for your return," he said

The UAW will host a return picnic for the troop when it returns, hopefully, in 2009.

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