Support group for 155th’s families meets this week

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; A support group for families of soldiers leaving with the 155th Infantry National Guard will meet Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the National Guard Armory. And it will be not a minute too soon, said Sharon Goodrich, volunteer organizer of the Army Family Services program.

&uot;This is done throughout the Army,&uot; Goodrich said. &uot;We serve as a conduit of information when family members leave and we help to keep families together. When there’s a void, we try to fill it.&uot;

The leadership members of the 155th leave for Camp Shelby today. The rest of the members, about 4,000 soldiers from throughout Mississippi, will arrive at camp between Aug. 9 and Sept. 2 for 90 days of training and

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then three weeks at an army base, either Fort Polk, La., or Fort Irving, Texas.

Soldiers of the 155th probably will prepare to leave for the Middle East by the first of the year, Maj. Danny Blanton said Friday.

For the 100-plus family members who will say goodbye to husbands, brothers and fathers in the two weeks to come, putting on a positive face is essential to giving their loved ones the proper sendoff, Goodrich said.

Bessie Allen, wife of Sgt. Montrell Allen, has begun that process, vowing that she will be strong and, most important, positive about the long separation she and her husband’s two children, ages 4 and 2, will endure.

It is not easy. Allen just learned that she is expecting their third child. &uot;I’m looking at it in a positive way. I say to him, ‘you’re going out of town and you will be right back.’ As long as I have people who will be there for me, I will be fine.&uot;

Glenda Grayson also has worked through the fears and sadness, arriving at an attitude that will make it easier for her husband, Londell Grayson, to leave her and the four children, ages 10, 7, 4 and six months.

&uot;If you dwell on the negative, it will wear you down,&uot; she said. &uot;I have no fears that they will go out together and come back together.&uot;

Those attitudes will help the men in the 155th as they prepare for duty in a place both foreign and dangerous. &uot;If they can go overseas and feel the family is fine, they will do fine,&uot; said Goodrich, who grew up in a military family and has been a military wife along with working many years for the Veterans Administration as a director of national cemeteries.

Once the support group meets on Wednesday, group activities and specific aids will fall into place, Goodrich said. She envisions enlisting help of people who might assist families with financial matters; a pool of 155th family members who might form a babysitting network; tradesmen who might be willing to make small repairs around the houses.

&uot;We’ll have to see how the group goes, what they want done,&uot; Goodrich said. &uot;And I’d like to invite any retired military wives to come to the meeting and help us. If you’ve been there, you know how it is.&uot;

Glenda Sawyer said other family members already have made a difference for her. She looks forward to getting all the children of the 155th together so the older ones can talk among themselves about their fathers being away.

Sawyer and Bessie Allen have a special bond, as their husbands grew up together and remain close friends. &uot;It helps us to know they’re going to be over there together,&uot; Sawyer said. &uot;But when we pray, we don’t just pray for our husbands, we pray for the whole unit.&uot;

Goodrich said only those who have been through such an experience can know how difficult it is for the families. &uot;There are two kinds of military wives, the kinds that cope and the kinds that worry the heck out of their husbands. We want these guys to be able to go off and do their jobs.&uot;