Word came a few days ago that members of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade, who have been called to active duty, can expect to be deployed overseas May 13 with their eventual destination Iraq. About 150 of them are from a Gainesville-based unit and I got to thinking about the hardship the call-up has placed and them, their families and their careers. And, it carried me back to the time my Air Force Reserve unit was activated during the Vietnam War.
I thought at the time that I was facing a hardship. I was 23 and had started a new job just 28 days earlier and was still struggling to get my career on track - not even sure I wanted to stay in radio - and had what I thought was a big car payment. Guess maybe it was for me at that particular time.
But, I was single, had other few debts or obligations, and was not at the height of my career as many of the members of the 48th are. I was able to keep my foot in the radio door by working part time at the station where I had just taken a job in Marietta and was able to continue living in my off-base apartment. So, looking back it really wasn't so bad.
Of course there were those in my unit, such as now-retired Gainesville newspaperman and Air Force Reserve Col. Ted Oglesby, who did not fit into the same category as me - who were at the height of their career, maybe running a business, with family, a mortgage , and so forth. (A side note to all this: I, in fact, for a time, worked for Col. Oglesby, although he was, I think, a Captain at the time. And, yes, sympathy cards, for me, are welcome: Box 10, Gainesville.)
It is hard for me to fathom the kind of disruption an event such as a military callup must create on the lives of those Guard and Reserve members who do have a lot of obligations both at home and work. Of course, when you are in one of those units, a callup is always a possibility - especially in wartime.
It's hard enough just being called up, but to know that you are destined for a war zone must make it all the more difficult.
For me and Captain Ted and the rest of our unit, most of our callup time was spent at Dobbins Air Base in Marietta. Oh, we had some personnel who were deployed for temporary duty, TDY it is called, to Vietnam and England, I think. Some may have been even more permanently attached to overseas bases. We even lost a dozen or so members of our unit when their plane crashed into a mountainside in Brazil.
But most of us sailed through our 18 months of active duty without hardly breaking a sweat - far from having to do anything such as train at places such as the Army's Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia with the gnats, 'gators and snakes - or in the California desert, all the time knowing that within weeks, it would be the real thing and somebody would probably be shooting real bullets or worse at us.
So, best of luck to the men and women of the 48th - and here's hoping all of you return home safely.
Ken Stanford is the News Director at WDUN NEWS TALK 550, SPORTS RADIO 1240 THE TICKET, and MAJIC 1029 and Editor of accessnorthga.com.