Part-time soldiers prepare for possible call-up
MANSFIELD, Ohio — Readiness takes many forms. Joe Rose got married. Chris Muncy had a new furnace installed. Rees Walther bought computer software so his wife could manage the family finances.
As the United States creeps closer to war with Iraq, thousands of National Guard and Reserve members are organizing their personal lives, knowing they could be called to active duty at any time and with little warning.
About 50,600 reservists and guardsmen are already active, most assigned to homeland duty in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon officials said last week they may need 100,000 more, possibly 200,000, if the country goes to war.
Thomas Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said reservists normally get about 30 days to report for active duty, but if war comes, they could be called on much shorter notice.
Rose, 25, an airman with a security forces squadron based 70 miles southwest of Cleveland, already shipped out once this year. When he was told in February he would be deployed in March, he feared he wouldn’t be back in time for his July wedding. So, he and his fiancee got married at a courthouse.
Rose spent 100 days on a domestic deployment and was able to return in time for the formal wedding ceremony.
Now, the couple is anticipating another call-up.
“It keeps her pretty stressed out, and it keeps me a little stressed out. I certainly don’t want to be away from my wife,” Rose said. “But you just have to be ready to go, I guess.”
Raymond Jeno, 35, said his family will be able to run the family farm in eastern Montana without him if he’s called to duty in his naval reserve unit. His mother offered to come from Idaho to help care for his children, ages 2 and 6.
Still, Jeno hates the thought of leaving them. He said he left active duty and joined the reserves because he wanted to raise a family.
“It’s the last thing that I want to have happen in my life right now,” he said. “However, I would not be in the reserves if I was not prepared to do that for my country.”
Muncy, 42, serves in a National Guard communications unit in Springfield, near Dayton, and spent seven months on overseas duty last year. His 24-year-old daughter is in the Guard, and he has three teenage children.
Facing the possibility of war, he replaced an aging furnace in his home so his family wouldn’t have to deal with fixing it if he’s called again.
Thomas Meeks, 32, of Douglasville, Ga., a full-time communications manager for the National Guard, is prepared to reschedule his May 1 wedding if he is deployed.
“We actually only have paid a deposit on the wedding ring, to wait and see how everything shakes out,” he said.
“But I don’t want to go around speculating, especially with my mom,” Meeks said. “She would panic. I don’t want to talk to her about any of this until I know I’m going.”
Walther, 31, of Boise, Idaho, a seventh-grade teacher and National Guard intelligence specialist, said the first time he was deployed abroad, he left without explaining to his wife his methods for paying the bills. Now, she has taken charge of the family finances, and they bought computer software to help manage the process.
“It really is tough for the families, and it’s tougher on the guardsmen than they let on,” he said.
Walther missed his daughter’s first birthday and her first steps because he was in Texas training.
“You miss out on a lot of those little things,” he said.
In suburban Cleveland, Russell and Trish Galeti’s son, 21-year-old Russell Jr., said he could be called up on as little as 72 hours notice.
“I didn’t realize it would be like that,” Trish said quietly, shaking her head.
But she supports his decision to join the National Guard.
“When they have the love for it, the passion for it, you want them to go for it and you want them to get it because you want them to be happy,” she said.
Her husband said he takes comfort in knowing that their son — a student at Kent State University and a tank gunner for an armored unit — is well trained and ready to go.
“You could drive yourself crazy thinking about it, or you can put your faith in God that when he does go, he’ll take the Lord with him,” Russell Galeti said.
Their son agreed. “I’m going to continue to operate as if nothing is happening until I’m told otherwise,” he said. “There’s no sense driving myself crazy … every reservist is in some degree of limbo.”
Marine Corps Sgt. James Battisti, 25, who instructs reservists in marksmanship in suburban Rochester, N.Y., said his pregnant wife is preparing to move back in with her parents in New York City if he is deployed.
“In terms of emotion, I’m very torn. I’m excited, I want to go, I’m almost at the point of anger that I want to go so bad but at the same time I have my wife and my newborn child that I want to stay back with,” he said. “I’m getting very impatient — either tell me I’m going or tell me I’m not going but tell me something.”