About 100 Army Reservists bid farewell to their families and headed for the Middle East this week after a deployment ceremony at Bayside's Fort Totten Sunday morning.
The reservists, members of three divisions from the New York City area, left for Fort Dix, N.J. Monday morning, where they will receive further training before shipping out to unknown destinations, said Bruce Hill, spokesman for the 77th Regional Support Command, based at Fort Totten.
"This deployment is going to be the defining moment in your lives," Col. Edward Kamarad, commander of the 301st Area Support Group, told the reservists Sunday. "It will be the legacy you carry forward. You will complete this assignment and come back better soldiers."
The reservists belong to the 623rd Transportation Company, the 943rd Replacement Company and the 455th Military Police Detachment. They will spend between two to five days on additional training at Fort Dix, and then depart for unknown destinations in the Middle East as the United States prepares for the possibility of war with Iraq. The deployment may last up to two years, Hill said.
The day was met with mixed emotions by many, including Major General Richard Colt, head of the 77th support command.
"This is a hard day today and a proud day today," Colt said. "It's hard because we send our young men and women, the best of our nation. It's a proud day because I look at our soldiers and see their dedication, loyalty, courage, self-sacrifice, and willingness to serve."
But these qualities are evident in the soldiers' families, as well, said Michael Handy, director of the Mayor's Office of Veteran Affairs.
"As you go forward in our defense, we must stand and wait," Handy said. "Standing and waiting is probably the most difficult thing of all."
Colt agreed, reminding the reservists to keep in touch with their families as often as they can while away.
"Families, thank you for what you are sacrificing," he said. "Our soldiers will know what's going on. You won't. So soldiers, write, call when it's available."
Cambria Heights teen Shermidah Julien came to the Fort Totten ceremony to support her father, Sgt. Shurwin Juilen, a 15-year-veteran with the Army Reserves and a member of the 623rd Transportation Company.
"I'm not too worried about him," Shermidah Julien said. "I have to have faith in him."
For Specialist Jermin Nurse, who joined the Reserves last year, the deployment is a dream come true.
"I've been wanting to do this for a long time," said Nurse, who has family in Jamaica. "I've always wanted to do this."
And while some are looking forward to the adventure of service, Specialist Aaron Baldwin is looking forward to his days at Fort Dix as preparation for his tour. His family lives in Glen Oaks.
"I want to get as much training as we can get so we're okay and we bring everyone home," he said. "I'm not leaving anyone behind."
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2003 Community News Group
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