Guardsmen leave home for country

October 14, 2001|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

When Maryland National Guardsman William D. Crosby Sr. first heard about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he knew right away that he would volunteer to help his fellow guardsmen in New York.

But within the hour, five hijackers had crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon, and Crosby suspected he'd have orders of his own. He was right.

The Randallstown man was among the several hundred Maryland Guardsmen federalized and dispatched Sept. 12 to Northern Virginia to guard the crime scene at the Pentagon.

And yesterday, he was one of about 300 military police officers deployed to Fort Stewart, an Army base near Savannah, Ga., as part of the nation's homeland defense operation.

An additional 300 infantry soldiers will leave tomorrow morning for Fort Bragg, N.C., to be deployed to an undisclosed location in the United States.

"I have mixed feelings," Crosby, an individual-retirement-account representative with Mercantile Bank, said yesterday morning as he bounced his 8-month-old son, Quincy, on his knee while keeping an eye on 7-year-old Kanysha and 2-year-old D.C. Jr. "I'm excited that I get a chance to serve our country, but I have these little ones and my wife who I don't want to leave."

Those sentiments echoed throughout the Parkville Armory yesterday morning, where about 90 MPs dressed in camouflage fatigues, combat boots and black berets began arriving with their families shortly after 5 a.m. to finish packing duffel bags and get ready to board three buses for the 12-hour ride to Georgia. Another 210 MPs left from Salisbury.

"It's still hard to grasp," said Bonita Mack of Randallstown. Her husband, Alvin, was home from the Pentagon crash site only a week and a half before receiving word that he would leave again.

"We have two young kids, so this is definitely changing our lives right now," she said.

President Bush, himself a former Air National Guardsman, has called members of the Guard "full-time patriots." That brought little comfort to family members who tearfully bid farewell yesterday to soldiers whose mission could last up to two years. They will be away from home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, even if their deployment lasts only three months.

With uncertainty heavy in the air, Justin and Dana Lynam of Calvert County stood in the armory parking lot, talking quietly and gently rubbing each other's arms. The couple married a week ago.

"It was rough when I first found out," Dana Lynam said of her husband's assignment. "But now I'm looking at it as, who am I to think it shouldn't be my husband when everyone here is somebody's husband or son or mother? ... So now, I just want them to leave already so they can hurry up and get home."

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