Bragg soldiers deploy to Iraq
September 15, 2006
Families played, mothers wept and lovers hugged, squeezing in as much togetherness as they could before 5 p.m. came and the soldiers had to leave.<br/><br/>Two units - the 659th Maintenance Company and the 28th Combat Support Hospital - started a yearlong deployment to Iraq on Wednesday afternoon. More than 300 soldiers met in two industrial-size rooms at Green Ramp, their families and loved ones in tow, and emotions ran the gamut.<br/><br/>On one side, Sgt. Reshema Horton wrapped her infant son, Cameron, in her arms and swallowed a lump in her throat.<br/><br/>Horton has been in the Army three years, but this deployment - her first - came three months after Cameron's birth.<br/><br/>"We tried to get a waiver," her husband, Wesley Horton, said. "But they said no."<br/><br/>Reshema Horton looked at her son and her husband, then shut her eyes tightly.<br/><br/>"I don't want to go," she said softly. "Every time I look at him I cry."<br/><br/>On the other side of the building, Staff Sgt. Shanie Smith leaned against a concrete pole, joking with passers-by, the contents of her backpack spread on the floor around her.<br/><br/>Smith held up a satin-covered eye mask and laughed.<br/><br/>"Now, see, this is something you gotta have over there," she said. "People coming in and out all hours, flicking on the lights. You gotta be able to sleep."<br/><br/>Smith ticked off the other essentials she'd shoved in her pack: A makeup bag, DVDs, CDs, a Weight Watchers book.<br/><br/>"I'm a girly girl," she said with a grin and a shrug. "I gotta have my stuff."<br/><br/>Smith, a respiratory therapist, is permanently assigned to the 28th Combat Support Hospital. Part of her unit will operate a hospital in Baghdad, part will set up shop in southern Iraq.<br/><br/>Members of the 659th Maintenance Company are going to Iraq to provide maintenance for convoy vehicles.<br/><br/>The faces around Green Ramp showed fear and excitement. One group of soldiers kicked around a hacky sack while, in a nearby corner, a couple couldn't seem to let each other go. One soldier sat in a corner eating Arby's and sending text messages, while another sat on a bench with his children climbing over his shoulders.<br/><br/>Sgt. Simon Rodriguez of the 659th Maintenance Company swung one arm around his wife, Sugeyra, using the other to shoo his sons away from his rifle.<br/><br/>This is Rodriguez's second deployment - the first was to Korea - so his family more or less knows what to expect.<br/><br/>This time, though, his destination is Iraq.<br/><br/>"I'm going to a place that's kind of dangerous," he said. "But I'm going there and I'm ready."<br/><br/>He smiled as his 4-year-old daughter, Elaine, crawled behind him and hooked a skinny arm around his neck.<br/><br/>"I don't know what to expect," he said. "I just have to keep myself safe."<br/><br/>Staff writer Laura Arenschield can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3572.