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'It's going to be a tough year'


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POSTED: Friday, June 05, 2009

For the second time in three years, Heather Long must bid farewell to her husband, who will leave for Iraq with the 130th Engineer Brigade.

The only difference from the first deployment is 6-month-old Cooper, who slept in his baby seat during the deployment ceremony yesterday.

"It's going to be hard, but we've been though a deployment before so we know what to expect," said Long, who has been married to Capt. Josh Long for three years. "And now that we have a child, more emotions are involved."

One hundred fifty members of the 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, gathered to say goodbye to their loved ones at Schofield Barracks. The brigade will embark on a yearlong mission to northern Iraq, duty that includes helping Iraqi soldiers draft topography maps and rebuilding infrastructure.

Many military spouses have experienced more than one deployment, such as Elizabeth Hanakahi, whose husband, Sgt. Daniel Hanakahi, will leave on his fourth deployment. She sat with her three children, ranging from 5 months to 11 years old.

"It's different because I have another baby and I have to take care of the family all by myself," Hanakahi said. "All we gotta do is pray to God for our loved ones and to keep them alive."

Hanakahi plans to stay in touch with her husband through phone calls, letters and the Internet. "The Internet makes me feel relieved, but a phone call means more than anything to me," she said.

During the ceremony Col. Fabian E. Mendoza Jr., brigade commander, called families "the real heroes" and untraditionally asked them to join their loved ones on the field.

Eight-year-old Jaiden Gordon found her mom amid the crowd and clung to her in tears. Sgt. 1st Class Erika Gordon will embark on her second deployment after she volunteered to take the place of another soldier.

"I think this one's harder cause she's our youngest of five and she understands now," said Gordon. "Just like every other parent, I'm going to miss my kids and husband so much."

Gordon's husband, Master Sgt. Julio Gordon, is an equal opportunity adviser for the Army and travels for a week every other month. When he has to leave for work, he will rely on other Army families to take care of his five children.

"It's going to be a tough year," he said. "She's the nucleus of the house. She keeps us going."