Families Say Goodbye as Fort Hood Soldiers Deploy to Iraq

Family and friends of the 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood, Texas, said goodbye to soldiers deploying to Iraq on Monday. Renee Montagne talked to the soldiers and their families about serving in Iraq.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

At Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday, soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division gathered in a big gymnasium to say goodbye to their families. They're headed to Iraq for a yearlong deployment. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Brykewell(ph) is leaving on his second tour of Iraq. We got him on the phone to describe the scene there and then pass the phone around.

Lieutenant Colonel SCOTT BRYKEWELL (U.S. Army): It is - they're doing roll call now. Lot's of families standing by, lots of last hugs, tears. I'm just getting ready to go on a one-year tour to Iraq.

MONTAGNE: Can you pull aside one of the soldiers?

Sergeant First Class RUBEN MORELO(ph) (U.S. Army): Hello. This is Sergeant First Class Ruben Morelo. How are you doing, ma'am?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you very much. So what did you do to prepare yourself and your family for this?

Sgt. 1st Class MORELO: As far as family-wise, I tried as much to - much time, you know, to spend with my family as I could. Just financial, make sure all the bills were, you know, financially straight. My wife knows how to do everything.

MONTAGNE: Is there one of your - your wife, or one of your kids standing there? You want to put them on the phone?

Sgt. 1st Class MORELO: My wife is standing right here.

Ms. MORELO (Wife of Sergeant Morelo): Hello.

MONTAGNE: Hello. How are you?

Ms. MORELO: Hi.

MONTAGNE: What do you say to your kids, what does he say and what do you say to them to make them feel better about this?

Ms. MORELO Well, we tell them that Daddy is going to go and he's going to protect our country and he's going to make the world a better place.

MONTAGNE: And the kids, they are how old?

Ms. MORELO: A 6-year-old son and a 4-month-old daughter.

MONTAGNE: So your 6-year-old, do you think he sort of gets it?

Ms. MORELO: Yes, Daddy had a talk with him and told him he's going to be the man of the house. And he's very mature for his age, so he knows he has to take care of Mommy and his little sister.

MONTAGNE: I'm really wishing you all the best, and maybe if you wouldn't mind passing the phone back to your husband.

Sgt. 1st Class MORELO: Hello.

MONTAGNE: Just one last thing. You're a sergeant, you have men under you, what do you tell them about this very moment, this moment of going from family into the war?

Sgt. 1st Class MORELO: You know, this is the hardest part. You know, yeah, you can go days on end without sleep and without eating, you know, being on a mission and not knowing when you're going to get back to the base and get some rest or get a good shower. You know, but that's the easy part, believe it or not. This is the hardest part. And once we get on the plane, it's time to put your game face on.

MONTAGNE: Sgt. Morelo, thank you for talking with us. And best of luck to you.

Sgt. 1st Class MORELO: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Staff Sergeant WILLIAM STONE(ph) (U.S. Army): Hello. Staff Sergeant Stone, William Stone, infantry.

MONTAGNE: And this is your first deployment to Iraq?

Staff Sgt. STONE: Yes.

MONTAGNE: Did your wife give you anything, or your kids, to take with you?

Staff Sgt. STONE: My daughter gave me her Winnie-the-Pooh bear.

MONTAGNE: Oh no. Are you going to have to explain that one to some of the guys?

Staff Sgt. STONE: No. I think that they will all understand.

MONTAGNE: They get it, huh? So, you know, just take care of yourself.

Staff Sgt. STONE: Okay, thank you.

Lieutenant Colonel KENNETH CARREY(ph) (U.S. Army): Hi, nice to meet you. I am Lt. Col. Kenneth Carrey. I've actually cleared 20 years the first part of September. The biggest challenge in preparing for this deployment was getting my daughters set for. I have a 9-year-old daughter and it's probably hardest for her. So I used the time I had with her and, you know, actually several months before I, you know, started planning for the deployment to prepare her.

(Soundbite of applause)

Lt. Col. STONE: The troops are leaving the building right now, the gymnasium in a line.

MONTAGNE: Oh.

Lt. Col. STONE: And they're getting applause from the soldiers that are supporting their departure and some of the family members.

(Soundbite of applause)

MONTAGNE: Soldiers and family members of the 1st Cavalry Division speaking to us yesterday from Fort Hood, Texas, as they prepared to deploy to Iraq.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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