National Guard members say goodbye

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
SALISBURY – Their last few weeks have been filled with packing, orders, paperwork and well-wishes.
Sunday morning, their duty called.
And the troops of C Company, 1-131st Aviation, the Army National Guard unit based in Salisbury, said goodbye to their families and headed off to serve their nation.
Most of the 84 soldiers left before dawn, boarding a jetliner in Charlotte bound for Fort Hood, Texas.
But the backbone of the unit, the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, made the trip with their crews, in formation.
After final training and preparation, the soldiers and their helicopters will be transported to Iraq.
Early Sunday, the flight crews’ families came to see them off.
In the Armory’s drill hall, volunteers served donated refreshments, but not a lot of people were eating.
Families gathered in small knots: aunts and uncles, grandparents, parents, children.
Most of them wore brave faces, smiling and trying to joke even in the face of what may be a yearlong absence.
Many others were shedding tears, or trying hard not to.
“For the last week or so, we’ve accepted it and prepared for it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Vic Duniec.
The Duniecs live in Charlotte. They have three children.
Duniec said his daughter Emily had been asking if he really had to go, and what would happen if he just stayed home.
Held in his arms, Emily smiled shyly as her daddy told this story.
“I explained to her the importance of responsibility,” Duniec said, smiling back at her. “If nobody did the uncomfortable, we wouldn’t be as strong as we are.”
Emily said she’s going to send her father packages, with her mom’s help. And, she said, “I’m going to Skype him sometimes.”
Skype is a computer program that lets people make video phone calls over the Internet. It’s going to be used by a lot of families of “Charlie Company” troops.
At last, Capt. Darrell Scoggins, unit commander, gave the word. Time to go.
Soldiers and families walked out to the edge of the tarmac to say goodbye for now.
Dressed in their Sunday best, the family of Jay Moon waited by the fence as, some 100 yards away, the air crews got a briefing and did their preflight checks.
“We want him to be safe and alert, get the mission done and get home in one piece,” said Joe Moon, Jay’s father, looking out toward the airfield.
“He’s our first grandchild,” said Nancye Moon. “And we’re going to miss him.” She plans to send Joe care packages and talk to him when she can.
At the official deployment ceremony in Greensboro two weeks ago, there were bands and speeches, pomp and circumstance.
Sunday morning, reality set in.
The ten helicopters’ engines roared to life, and they taxied one by one to the airport’s runway.
The crews waved from the windows and doorways as their loved ones held flags and signs, waving back.
After a moment, 10 helicopters rose into the sky. They circled over Salisbury, got into formation and flew over the airport one last time.
Taking with them the hopes, prayers and love of those they must leave behind.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.