One more battle

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Two years ago Tuesday, at around 10:30 p.m., Guy Conley found himself trapped underneath a pickup truck, his pelvic bone crushed, his shoulder broken and his life in jeopardy.

Paramedics flew him by helicopter to St. Louis and gave him about a 20 percent chance to live. And he did. And he doesn't even walk with a limp anymore.

Later that month, Guy's mother suffered a heart attack.

The day after Christmas last year, Guy's father suffered a heart attack.

In January, the family learned that Guy's father had developed a brain tumor and he died in April. The day after he buried his father, Guy was at the hospital, hoping his mother would live through a triple-bypass heart surgery. And she did.

Just when life was getting back to normal for Guy Conley, his country called him to duty, and the worrying started again.

Conley and his fellow guardsmen of the 1140th Engineer Battalion are preparing their families to live without them for up to 18 months.

On Jan. 3, the battalion will be mobilized to Fort Riley in Kansas. From there, no one knows for sure what will happen, so families from the 1140th are making the next 30 days count.

The 1140th is one of three Missouri National Guard battalions preparing for action. The 128th and 129th, both field artillery battalions located in the Kansas City and mid-Missouri regions, are gearing up for a military police mission.

Hot dogs and apple pie

As Conley scraped the shattered glass from an SUV Tuesday afternoon, he was a picture of the All-American Guy. Guy joined the Army right out of high school then later joined the National Guard.

He and his wife, Kim, run their own glass-repair business, the Mobile Auto Glass Medix. Guy lives in Millersville and is a 1987 graduate of Jackson High School, a former football and basketball player. He stands 6-foot-2 with a shaved head and a goatee. He has a wife, a 4-year-old daughter and a house in the country.

But the All-American Guy has responsibilities, no matter how difficult the last two years have been. There's no time for sulking. It's time to prepare.

For Guy and Kim, that means training Tim Kilhafner to take over the glass-installation duties for the family business. Kilhafner is Guy's only hired hand. He is related to Guy through marriage and, after a month of on-the-job training, appears to be qualified to take over Guy's duties. But Guy is worried that Kilhafner might not have enough help. He wants to hire more help, afraid that his absence will put more of a burden on his wife.

Guy isn't even gone yet, and Kim is already feeling the pressure.

"If I can't keep the business alive while he's gone, I'll lose it," Kim said.

Aside from keeping the business alive, the Conleys are also worried about Amber.

"She's got my blue eyes and my dimples and her momma's hair," Guy describes.

Amber was not her normal self at school when her dad left for three weeks of training in California earlier this year. Her attitude changed to the point where teachers called Kim and asked if everything was OK at home.

"They thought she was depressed," Kim said. "She just doesn't understand. How do you explain that dad's going to be gone, but you don't know when he's coming back or if he's coming back."

Guy has received no official word, but his instinct tells him he's headed for Afghanistan or Iraq.

A difficult Christmas

Kim said this Christmas will be a difficult one for many reasons. Guy's father turned sick the day after Christmas last year and this will be the first Christmas without him. Then, there is the Jan. 3 deadline looming over the family.

Guy and Kim's friends, Rodney and Lindsay Sebaugh of Jackson, know the feeling.

Lindsay said knowing that Rodney will be leaving shortly after Christmas makes the holiday special and sad at the same time.

Lindsay, who is pregnant and due in March, is holding out hope that Rodney won't be deployed overseas. She knows all too well the disappointment of giving birth without her husband.

Rodney was called to provide security at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Grace, Rodney and Lindsay's daughter was born while Rodney was away. She'll turn 2 in February.

"I felt like when I married him, I had the rest of my life to spend with him," Lindsay said. "Now, I feel like I have 30 days and I feel like I have to fit everything in, remember every moment, make a memory and really, really enjoy this time. Because of that, you can't enjoy the moment."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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