Across America, nation’s guardsmen and reservists prepare for active-duty call-up
Nick Johnson’s young life could soon take a sudden turn: The coming months that were expected to bring homework and high school dances might be filled with horror and war.
As an Army National Guardsman, Johnson is waiting to find out if he will be called to active duty or will be able to finish his final year of high school in Pierre, S.D.
”I’m ready to go if they need me,” the 18-year-old said. ”I just got my duffel bag with my battle-dress uniforms, my camouflage outfit and my boots and stuff that I’ll take either to battle or go clean up New York.”
President Bush has authorized activating up to 50,000 reservists and National Guard troops to protect military installations and to help with the recovery of victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon strikes.
That means ironworkers and teachers, housewives and businessmen. It means Johnson and others must get ready to put their lives on hold and pull on their uniforms.
It also means 25-year-old teacher Carey Taylor must leave behind her fourth-grade students at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Taylor was one of some two dozen Coast Guard reservists who reported for duty Monday in Mobile.
”I’m sorry for my kids because there’s stress in learning a new teacher,” said Taylor, who spent much of the weekend with her husband, Patrick, watching the news and packing her bags.
Don Neff, a pilot in the Nebraska Air National Guard, has a strong personal stake in the nation’s response – his regular flying job is for United Airlines, two of whose jets were hijacked last week.
”I think everybody feels it on a personal level,” said Neff, 30, who is based in Washington. ”Obviously there is more of an attachment there when you see a United airplane going down.”
No Continental Airlines planes were used in the deadly attacks, but Continental pilot Daryl Turenne of Amherst, N.Y., took the armed takeover of commercial airliners personally.
”I want to participate in whatever kind of actions that we take to try to stop terrorism or make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” said Turenne, a major in the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Air Refueling Wing, based in Niagara Falls.
Turenne said he hears plenty of worry from his parents in South Carolina and siblings around the country, both about the dangers of his regular job and his National Guard role.
”They’re used to me doing this stuff,” he said. ”I was in Desert Storm, I’ve gone to Kosovo … They worry, but they’re kind of getting used to it.”
The Hayes family in Hopkinsville, Ky., is also getting used to it. Jincy Hayes, a mother of three and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves, said she and her children watched the images of jets crashing into the World Trade Center.
Everyone knew what it meant: Mom might be going away.
”Even my 10-year-old son was clingy,” Hayes said.
For some, the attacks meant a quickening pace. Robert Mapes wasn’t supposed to get married until February, but the Navy reservist sped up the timeline after the attacks.
Mapes, a 36-year-old ironworker, and his fiancee celebrated their nuptials Monday at the Lucas County courthouse in Toledo, Ohio. ”It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said. ”Just in case we go.”
There was no talk of a honeymoon. Instead, the newlyweds drove to the Naval Reserve office to fill out paperwork.
The public response to seeing reservists and guardsmen has been supportive, said Maj. Linda Blaszak of Tonawanda, N.Y., a full-time public affairs officer for the 107th Air Refueling Wing.
She was in uniform the day after the attacks as she walked into a convenience store to buy a newspaper and breakfast, when a woman approached and insisted on paying.
”She said, ‘You just go and you stay safe,’ and she started to cry,” recalled Blaszak. ”It was just the most wonderful thing.”
Army Reserves: http://www.army.mil/usar
National Guard: http://www.ngb.dtic.mil