Cape civil engineer being sent to Iraq

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Cape Girardeau city engineer's office will soon send the second member of its 22-person staff to Iraq.

John Hedrick, a civil engineer who has been in charge of much of the overlay work done on Cape Girardeau streets in the past year, will report for duty later this month.

For Hedrick, service to his country was inherited.

"I'm the third generation to serve, and all three have served during war time," he said. "My family has served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq. It gives me a sense of pride to carry on this tradition, but I also feel nervous. There's always the fear of the unknown."

Hedrick is in his sixth year as a reservist and is a member of the 9th Naval Construction Battalion. He will be deployed with five other local Seabee reservists and charged mainly with laying out roads and structural planning.

Hedrick, a graduate of Missouri State University, has worked in the engineer's office since 1998. He said he doesn't have anything special planned before his call-up date on Jan. 23; he just wants to spend more time with his wife, Carla, and 9-year-old daughter Jessica.

"My daughter's old enough that she understands what's going on," he said. "So I was able to sit down and explain it to her what I'm doing."

David Grass, a construction inspector from the city engineer's office, has been in Iraq for over a year and will be returning in the spring.

Over the last two years, Cape Girardeau has watched as eight city employees were called to military service. Apart from the two members of the engineer's office, there are also four members of the fire department, one member of the police department, and one person from management information systems, according to the city manager's office.

The only member of the fire department to be sent to Iraq was fire inspector Sam Welker. All four have returned to their roles in Cape Girardeau, although they may be recalled later on. Fire chief Rick Ennis said a lot of public safety people tend to be reservists.

"There's good and bad," he said. "We're very proud of the guys and understand that they're serving a vital role, but when they're gone we have to cover for their absence, and that can be tough."

City engineer Jay Stencel said the loss of Hedrick will be hard to work around. "We're going to look for some part-time help to take over some of his jobs, but John's such a great civil engineer we're really going to miss his leadership skills."

Stencel said, however, that he is not surprised so many city employees serve their country.

"The same type of people who serve the city as public servants are the ones that would be Army reservists," Stencel said. "It shows we've got the right people working for the city."

335-6611, extension 245

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