Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Area troops get send-off at armory
By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau
WALTON A standing-room-only crowd of friends, relatives and supporters filled the Walton Armory on Monday to send off the National Guard 204th Engineer Battalion Company A, which is being deployed to Iraq.
More than 300 people mingled, hugged and reassured each other as they waited for the official mobilization ceremony for the 27 soldiers headed for wartime duty.
Janet Lent, National Guard 204th family support leader, was overseeing the event and directing the display of huge banners that proclaimed "God Bless Our American Soldiers" and "Goodbye 204th Hurry Home."
[an error occurred while processing this directive]"This is just wonderful," Lent said, looking around at the crowd. "I am so overwhelmed by the support."
Emily Hugues, 10, of Central Bridge said her family had a private party for her father, Sgt. Vincent Hugues.
"We made him a big fancy dinner," Emily said. "We all dressed up, and we put lights and candles and pictures of us when we were young all over the kitchen.
"We gave him a cross, and I made him an American flag that says 'God Bless America,'" Emily said. "I was here Sunday and helped put yellow ribbons up."
Lent spearheaded a Yellow Ribbon Brigade that hung yellow ribbons from one end of Walton to the other. Bea Bennett said she and several friends added dozens of American flags that dotted the Bridge Street Bridge, fluttering in the wind.
Spc. Michael Frisbee's family was out in full force to see him off.
Jane Mondore, Frisbee's aunt from New Berlin, said, "I don't want to see him go, but you've got to do what you have to do as long as they all come back safe."
Joan Knickerbocker, Frisbee's mother, added, "I'm shaken, but I expected it to happen sooner or later. I just want them to all go over there and do their jobs and come back safe."
Knickerbocker said Frisbee's brother and sister flew in from Florida for a big going-away party Saturday.
Melissa Frisbee, Michael Frisbee's wife, said she and their two children, Gannon, 6, and Mara, 3, of Davenport Center are doing all right because they have known about the deployment for several weeks and have had time to adjust.
Melissa Frisbee teaches third grade at Downsville Central School and has arranged for her class to come to Walton on a field trip Wednesday to display signs they made to bid farewell to the soldiers. The troops are scheduled to leave the Armory at 11 a.m. and parade through the streets of Walton on their way out of town, heading for Fort Drum.
Michael Frisbee, who works for the city of Oneonta as a heavy equipment operator, said he will be doing the same job in the Guard.
"I've been in the Guard for over 10 years, and I have seen a lot of active duty in the state, but never war duty," Frisbee said. "I'm OK, and I'm doing the best I can. I'm worried more about my family than myself.
"I love my family, and I can't wait to get back home," Frisbee added.
Dylan Suydam, 7, was dressed up in army camouflage to support his aunt, Nicole Alexander, one of two women shipping out with the 204th.
Alexander, a Schoharie County corrections officer in civilian life, said she has taken care of the little details that needed to be done before she left.
"I notified my job and signed my power of attorney over to my mother," Alexander said. "I'm feeling as best as can be expected. Tomorrow, I'm just spending time with my family and friends and finishing my packing. I'm a true procrastinator."
Peter Heggie's family of Oxford, including twins Julianne and Jacquelyn, 9, Cameron, 7, Jonathan, 4, and their mother, Cathie, were there to support their soldier.
"We're fine," said Julianne.
"But I bet when he goes we'll be sad," added Jacquelyn.
The Heggie twins said that they had been assigned special duties while their father is gone to help their mother out. They are in charge of planning and helping to prepare dinner and keeping the family's three dogs and three cats fed.
Cameron said he is in charge of manning the video camera to record all the events their dad will miss in the next 18 months.
Cathie Heggie said the family had to put a trip to Disney World on hold but are looking forward to going together when Peter Heggie gets home.
"It's going to be tough, but we can hold down the fort," Cathie Heggie said. "I want to do anything we can so he won't worry about us. The bottom line is that we are pretty proud of him."
Cpl. Randy Lambrecht, state National Guard deputy director of training and readiness, said the Walton-based 204th was going to Iraq to fill out another unit. He said this is the first unit from the 204th to go into combat since World War II.
Lambrecht, who grew up in Sidney Center and joined the National Guard in Walton, said that the soldiers keep their morale up with a resounding cry of "whoo-whaa." He asked the troops to demonstrate and then asked the crowd to respond.
Through the rest of the ceremony, there were several inspired cries of "whoo-whaa" from the crowd.
Patricia Breakey can be reached at (607) 746-2894 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.