By Laura Arenschield, staff writer Fayetteville OnlineSeptember 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.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.On one side, Sgt. Reshema Horton wrapped her infant son, Cameron, in her arms and swallowed a lump in her throat.Horton has been in the Army three years, but this deployment - her first - came three months after Cameron's birth."We tried to get a waiver," her husband, Wesley Horton, said. "But they said no."Reshema Horton looked at her son and her husband, then shut her eyes tightly."I don't want to go," she said softly. "Every time I look at him I cry."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.Smith held up a satin-covered eye mask and laughed."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."Smith ticked off the other essentials she'd shoved in her pack: A makeup bag, DVDs, CDs, a Weight Watchers book."I'm a girly girl," she said with a grin and a shrug. "I gotta have my stuff."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.Members of the 659th Maintenance Company are going to Iraq to provide maintenance for convoy vehicles.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.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.This is Rodriguez's second deployment - the first was to Korea - so his family more or less knows what to expect.This time, though, his destination is Iraq."I'm going to a place that's kind of dangerous," he said. "But I'm going there and I'm ready."He smiled as his 4-year-old daughter, Elaine, crawled behind him and hooked a skinny arm around his neck."I don't know what to expect," he said. "I just have to keep myself safe."Staff writer Laura Arenschield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3572.