Mall manager to join in war with terrorism

Thursday, February 13, 2003

For eight years, Westfield Shoppingtown West Park manager Jim Govro has fought to make the Cape Girardeau mall a better place to shop. Now, he's taking on Osama bin Laden.

"I'll bring back his turban for you," joked Govro, a member of the Missouri Air National Guard, who was activated a week ago.

Govro, who came to Cape Girardeau in 1995 to manage the mall when it was bought by Westfield, will leave sometime next week, but said he can't say where -- only that it is overseas.

"They're sending us to an undisclosed location," said Govro, who has 19 years of military service, including eight years in the U.S. Air Force. "It's classified. I can't tell anybody until I get there. I don't even know how long I'll be gone."

Time overseas

Govro's orders are call for a year of service, but Govro said he suspects he will be gone for less than six months.

As the United States continues to build up for a possible war with Iraq, Govro was among 54 other members of his St. Louis-based unit to be activated. More than 38,600 National Guard and reservists were activated during the week, nearly double the previous largest weekly jump since the September 2001 attacks on America.

The government would not say where the soldiers are going.

"Some will deploy to the Middle East, others will serve here in the homeland," said Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Defense Department spokesman in Washington, D.C.. "All of them are essential to winning the war on terrorism."

Govro, 42, serves as a heavy equipment operator for the 131st Civil Engineering Squad out of Lambert Airport in St. Louis. Govro's unit will most likely help build and maintain roads for an Air Force base.

Govro went to work for South County Center in St. Louis as a technician, working his way up to chief engineer and later went to be assistant manager of Westfield Shoppingtown Mid-Rivers in St. Louis before moving to Cape Girardeau.

Govro said his staff at the mall will fill in for him while a Westfield vice president from St. Louis will be in charge by phone.

"I don't think it will be a big issue," Govro said. "It's a solid property for Westfield. It doesn't have any real issues."

Govro, who lives in Perryville, Mo., said he got a phone call Feb. 4 telling him to pack his bags. He is leaving his wife, Sandy, and five children -- ages 13 through 19 -- behind.

"I think they're doing OK with it," he said. "Of course, the reality may not set in until Dad's gone."

It will be tough to leave behind his family and friends, but Govro said he knew the risk.

"I believe in duty, honor, country," he said. "It's an honor for me. I'm 42 years old, but I'm ready to go. I know we're the luckiest country in the world and our military is a big reason for that."

335-6611, extension 137

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