Saturday, December 28, 2002

Called-up Guard leave wives, children, lives

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mike Vinson, a 28-year-old textbook salesman from Erlanger, is leaving his young son Noah and wife to fulfill his obligation to the National Guard.

He is one of 181 people who make up the 223rd Military Police Company, based in Louisville. The group, including Kentuckians from 56 of the state's 120 counties, was recently mobilized to provide security for U.S. military installations overseas as the country responds to the continued threat of terrorism.

Included on the roster are about 20 people from Northern Kentucky.

They reported for duty Friday morning in Louisville.

"Honestly, it is difficult," Spc. Vinson said in a sober voice. "You think about the things you will miss. The first step. The first word. I wonder if Noah will recognize me when I return."

Spc. Vinson, known as "Vinny the Knuckles" to his fellow Guardsmen, doesn't know how long he will be gone or even where he is going. His orders say he could be gone for up to a year, but the president has the power to mobilize Guardsmen for up to two years.

Before reporting to the Buechel Armory, Spc. Vinson purchased one more Christmas gift for his son, whom he affectionately calls "Boo Boo." The gift was a teddy bear. The stuffed animal was purchased at a Tristate shop where customers can build their own bear.

The person who builds the bear can choose the clothes and record a short sound clip for the bear to say when it's squeezed.

When Noah squeezes his bear, dressed in a red, white and blue sweater, he will hear his father saying "Boo Boo" in the best imitation of Yogi Bear Spc. Vinson could muster.

"Life doesn't stop in America just because I'm gone," he said.

Spc. Vinson and his company returned from intensive field training in Muhlenberg County in Western Kentucky on Monday only to have to report to Louisville on Friday. They leave for Fort Dix, N.J., on Thursday for their final phase of training.

That training likely includes the much-discussed smallpox vaccination, many of the Guardsmen said.

Spc. Craig Baurichter, 34, of Fort Thomas didn't leave a wife and family behind, but he had to postpone his graduation from Northern Kentucky University, where he is majoring in elementary education.

"I was planning to start my student teaching at Bond Hill Academy in January," said Spc. Baurichter. "That will just have to wait now."

Spc. Baurichter, who works at Mount Washington Baptist Daycare, said he was upset about being mobilized until he realized his hardships were nothing compared to his fellow Guardsmen, many of whom are leaving behind wives, young children or ill parents.

"To tell anyone to quit their life's plan to do something, and then not tell them for how long or where, is hard for anyone to handle," Spc. Baurichter said. "But everyone here wakes up with a smile. We are making the best of it."


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