Pregnant wives say goodbye to soldiers

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- On Thursday afternoon, all 103 of the Missouri National Guard soldiers heading out of Company B will leave behind someone who loves them.

Maybe a wife or a child, a parent or a friend.

Such is the nature of the part-time National Guard, which is on full-time readiness in case of crisis or need, in this instance. a 35-day tour of duty to provide protection at the 2002 Winter Olympics near Salt Lake City.

But for four area National Guard families in the 1140th Engineer Battalion, this trip comes at an especially bad time -- these soldiers' wives are pregnant and near their due dates.

That means the soldiers will leave these expectant moms to face the final days of their pregnancy alone. The men will be serving their country 1,400 miles away.

It wasn't what any of them imagined.

"It's not exactly ideal," said Lindsay Sebaugh, who is expecting her first child with her husband, Sgt. Rodney Sebaugh, Feb. 3. "But I look at it as a great honor. I see it as he's keeping his country safe for his wife and soon-to-be daughter."

In addition to the Sebaughs of Cape Girardeau, the other couples expecting children soon are: Sgt. Chad Craft of Jackson and his wife, Melissa; Spc. Brad Hess of Chaffee and his wife, Sarah ; and 2nd Lt. Mike Pierson of Fredericktown and his wife, Colleen.

The women say they will rely on family, friends and services offered by the National Guard.

"It's really like a big family," Lindsay Sebaugh said.

B Company is based in Perryville and Jackson. Commanding officer Capt. Chris Mickan said the soldiers will report Thursday at the Perryville armory before leaving at about 8 p.m. They will be transported by bus to Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo., and then catch a flight to Hill Air Force Base in Utah the next morning. They actually will serve in Park City, Utah.

Working for Secret Service

The troops will be working directly for the U.S. Secret Service, Mickan said, offering security by searching bags, manning metal detectors and looking through vehicles. The soldiers will be armed with M-16 rifles and will carry live ammunition.

Mickan said the husbands who have pregnant wives aren't putting their families second.

"Family's always first," he said. "That's why our guys are doing it. Since what happened Sept. 11, people have a greater sense of their value of peace."

Mickan said there was a concern for the soldiers with pregnant wives.

"We talked to every one of these soldiers," Mickan said. "We wanted to make sure they were in the right state of mind."

Mickan said the military will try to get the men with pregnant wives home temporarily in time to see their babies born. Once one of the women goes into labor, the Red Cross will be contacted to reach the soldier.

The soldier will be allowed to come home -- paying for his own flight -- but only for 72 hours. They then must return for duty until their tour is over.

But Mickan acknowledges that some of the men may miss the delivery. They can still go home to be with their wives and new children for awhile, he said.

Brad and Sarah Hess already have two girls, but Brad Hess doesn't want to miss the birth of his first son.

"I'm really hoping that I'll be here," he said. "I've been in the room for all my kids. I'd hate to miss it."

But if he does, Hess said he won't dwell on it.

"You realize that we enjoy the freedoms and the privileges that we do because of soldiers that came before us," he said. "Now it's my turn."

Sgt. 1st Class Chad Craft said he's nervous about his wife having to go through childbirth on her own. He said he's trying to help her -- and himself -- keep it in perspective.

"None of us see this as a big sacrifice," he said. "What we're being asked to do is not a whole lot when you think about soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Olympic risks

Not that the job doesn't come with risks. On Sept. 5, 1972, war, politics and religion invaded the Munich Olympics.

Terrorists stole into the Olympic Village dressed as athletes while carrying their weapons in gym bags. They killed two Israelis and took nine hostage. The terrorists demanded the release of 200 Arab guerrillas jailed in Israel and safe passage for themselves and the hostages.

By 11 p.m. the hostages, five of their captors and one West German police officer were dead, the outcome of a failed rescue attempt. Three Arabs were captured.

"People keep teasing us about going to watch athletes," Craft said. "But we know there's a risk involved. Think about it: If you're a terrorist, what better stage to get your message across?"

Sarah Hess said she understands her husband's duty.

"I won't say it won't be hard," she said. "But we don't have a choice. Brad is a man of integrity and he gave his word. That's what makes him who he is -- the same for all these guys. To miss this would be a big blow for him, but it's something we'll get through."

335-6611, extension 137

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