Carrying on a tradition

Monday, January 5, 2004
Brothers Patrick Meyer, John Meyer and Michael Meyer said their goodbyes to friends and family during Sunday's Army National Guard deployment ceremony held at the Perry Park Center in Perryville, Mo. John Meyer's wife, Tasha, left, and their 8-month-old son, Caleb, attended the ceremony.

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- The departure of the 500 members of the 1140th Missouri National Guard Engineer Battalion will affect many families in Southeast Missouri, but it will be especially hard for the Meyer family of Apple Creek, Mo.

Dolores and Paul Meyer have three sons who will be leaving with Company B for the Middle East Tuesday morning: John, 26, and 20-year-old twins Patrick and Michael.

"This is the first time we've experienced this type of situation," said Paul, himself a member of the Guard for more than 30 years. "It makes me a bit uncomfortable. I have mixed emotions."

Two other members of the family -- Jeff and Theresa -- are in the Guard, but John, Michael and Patrick are the only ones being deployed to the Middle East. Patrick is a mechanic in the Guard, while Michael and John are both heavy equipment operators.

The sons come from a tradition of military service. Their grandfather and his brothers served in World War II. Since then, every generation of Meyers has served in the military.

"I'm glad they're all in the Guard," said Dolores. "They're there because they want to be. They had always just decided they would go."

But despite the Meyers' pride in their family's military service, Paul said he's still concerned about sending his sons off to a hostile foreign land for the first time. "There have been other deployments, but not like this," he said. "They've been out for two weeks at a time, but never for this long."

Dolores says she's worried and scared but proud at the same time. "All I can do is pray a lot, I guess," she said.

Dolores is hopeful about the prospects for America to complete its mission of nation-building in Iraq. Other women she knows who have children in Iraq tell her the situation presented through the media isn't necessarily an accurate picture of America's real progress in the war.

"I think you can see a lot of improvement going on," said Dolores. "What they show on the news is just the worst of what's happening there. The soldiers who are there say they see a lot of good things happening."

'Get it done with'

Michael, a student at Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., said he joined the Guard to see the world, get experience and continue the family tradition. He said he's looking forward to going to the Middle East and helping the rebuilding process. "I just want to go and get it done with," he said. "I think it's going to be fun."

But he does have some anxiety, saying it will be tough being away from home for so long. "I'll just have to take it one day at a time," he said.

Despite the worries, he's extremely proud to be serving his country.

His brother Patrick just returned from his National Guard training on Dec. 10, was enrolled in the same school Michael attends. He says he's not really worried yet about the mission but admits he'd rather stay home. He points out that he's not leaving behind a family or a business of his own like some other Guardsmen are, which makes it much easier.

"I was getting ready to go to trade school," he said, "but it will still be there when I get back."

His brother John is leaving behind a family of his own -- his wife, Tasha, and son, Caleb -- as well as a full-time job in construction.

"It's something I got to do," he said. "I didn't think I'd ever have to do anything like this, but I always knew it was possible."

John said he knows the absence will be hard on his parents and his wife and child, but he is reassured by the support for them in the community. "We have a lot of good neighbors," he said.

His mother knows many other families who have loved ones departing, and they're all using the same coping strategy, she said. "They've all turned it over to God."

msanders@semissourian.com

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