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Reservists say farewell as they leave to serve nation

by Kelly Posey

STAFF WRITER

BRIDGEPORT -- For members of the U.S. Army Reserves 459th Engineer Company, the United States' efforts to battle terrorism are no longer just newspaper headlines and television sound bites.

On Saturday, after just a week's notice, 183 reservists said goodbye to their families and friends, possibly for a year.

The 459th Engineer Company in Bridgeport, which is part of the 99th Regional Support Command, was mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The soldiers will be stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for administrative processing and training before moving to their duty location.

For most of the soldiers, the hardest part is being separated from their children, wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends.

"I won't get to see my baby being born," said Sgt. Richard Crites of Buckhannon, who just found out his wife is pregnant two weeks ago. The baby is due in September.

"My wife is upset and scared," said Crites, who has been in the Reserves for 11 years. "I'm scared but we know we've got to do it."

Specialist Zane Lakin's wife, Kristin, said the hardest part for her will be trying to raise their two children on her own. The couple, who are from Greensburg, Pa., has a 2-year-old daughter, Shania and a son, Zane, 7 months. Shania understands her father is leaving but thinks he is only going on vacation.

"That's all it is," Kristin said, holding on to her husband.

Specialist Lakin, who has served for five years in the Reserves, said his initial reaction to being given mobilization orders was surprise.

"You're not quite prepared for something like that," he said.

Luckily, 1st Lt. Phil Daczewitz of Reading, Pa., got to see his 6-week-old son, Brady being born. He and his wife Jacque also have a two year old daughter, Brooke.

"It's always hard to leave your family but when you're called upon, you have to support your nation," Daczewitz said. "We're here to do our job and what's asked of us."

Daczewitz has been in the Reserves for seven years and said although he is not scared, he knows there is a lot of responsibility in ensuring the soldiers underneath him come back safe.

"I wasn't totally shocked but I'm glad he was home on the holidays and to see his son being born," Jacque said.

To help the relatives of the soldiers, a family support group has been formed.

"We'll be having counseling, support group meetings and information sharing," said the group secretary, Amy Wilson Strange.

The first meeting will be on Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. at the Family Matters Enrichment Center.