Local National Guardsmen pack up for Iraq

Sunday was a bad day for Rochelle Miller, but the 10-year-old from Hood River has been having a lot of tearful times lately.

“I just feel very sad,” she said.

Rochelle and her twin brothers, Kenny and Malachi, 12, are struggling with the news that their father is being sent to Iraq. Army Specialist Kenneth Miller is one of 12 Oregon National Guard reservists from the Hood River Armory who live in the Gorge and have been called to active duty in Baghdad.

“It’s not really hitting us right now that he’s going but we think that when he leaves it’s all going to hit us pretty hard,” Malachi said.

The Miller children learned about their father’s deployment on Sept. 30, the day the paternal twins celebrated their 12th birthday. Although they were less than pleased about the delivery of that particular “present,” the three children are very proud of their parent.

“He’s serving his country and I might do the same thing,” Kenny said.

Kenneth and his wife, Meredith, have been scrambling to get their household affairs in order before he leaves on Oct. 30. They are trying to instill hope for the future in their worried offspring, who are looking forward to a trip to Disneyland when dad returns. Meanwhile, Kenneth has arranged for his family to live on a ranch near his relatives in Wyoming where they will have all of the help and support they need.

“I’m very patriotic so I have no problem being activated in the military but I’m going to miss my wife and kids — the hardest part is the separation from my family,” said Miller, who will be gone between 12-18 months.

On Monday, he took the three children out of school so they could spend some extra time with him and create a good lasting memory. At the end of the month Miller will hug family goodbye and journey to Fort Hood in Texas. Other Mid-Columbia residents joining him at that base are: Sgt. Travis Sheehan, Hood River; Corporal Edward Arneson, Hood River; Specialist Jason Howell, The Dalles; Jeremiah Mactoroski, Hood River; Private First Class Scott Pritchard, Hood River; Specialist Victor Cruz, The Dalles, Specialist Dustin Hinkley, Parkdale, Specialist Jeffrey House, Hood River; Shane Paasch, The Dalles, Specialist Allen Bemis, White Salmon, Wash.; and, Specialist German Lopez, Parkdale. There are also eight service men from the Hood River unit who live in other areas but will be deployed along with their local peers.

The contingent from the Gorge will become part of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, and will ship out shortly after the first of the year to relieve members of the 4th Cavalry Division in Baghdad. They will be responsible to survey for possible threats to the infantry.

Arneson is not worried at all about being in a global “hot spot.” He said every day living in America also carries inherent dangers, such as automobile accidents, and citizens should just focus on doing their part to make the world a better place to live.

“When your time comes, your time comes, that’s just the way it works,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep your eyes open and do the best you can.”

Before he leaves the United States, Douglas Branham of Eugene, who serves out of Hood River, wants to see his son David, 18, who joined the Air Force seven months ago. Other than saying a personal goodbye to his eldest child, who is currently stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., Branham is mentally prepared for whatever comes his way.

“If I were afraid to die I wouldn’t be in the military to begin with, the risk just comes with the job,” he said.

With their recent activation, the local reservists join 580 other Oregon National Guard members who are stationed at duty posts around the world.

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