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13 Jan 04,, 02:08
25th ID headed to Iraq
By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — For Paula Lundy, the deployment of her husband to Iraq will be the fifth time that the couple have been separated because duty has called.
Lt. Col. Michael Lundy is among the 4,000 soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division (Light) being sent to Iraq this month as part of a rotation of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that amounts to the largest movement of American troops in decades.

While the deployments never get easier, Lundy says she and the couple’s two daughters, ages 11 and 6, have found ways to cope.

“We have a strong family support group, so we’re ready,” Lundy said Friday.

She won’t be alone.

While smaller units have been sent to hot spots in the past, the deployment of the 4,000 Schofield troops to Iraq and an additional 3,500 soldiers to Afghanistan this spring mark the first time since the Vietnam War that such large, battalion-size units from Hawaii are being sent overseas, military officials said.

Support for the families they leave behind has poured in from throughout the state, particularly in the central Oahu community that is home to Schofield.

Among the traditional support service groups is the United States Overseas. In Hawaii, the USO has support centers at Honolulu International Airport and Hickam Air Base.

“I’ve been through this, so I know what it is to have your loved one and your son go off for a whole year — to a war zone,” said Connie Kraus, director of the USO in Hawaii. “It’s not easy but there are a lot of people around that will help them, that will be there for them, give them the strength that they need.”

Kraus said the USO has gotten a good response from local merchants to provide food, entertainment and other support for military family day events, including the one held Saturday at Kapiolani Park. Lundy added that many local businesses also have made offers of discounts for military families.

“I think the soldiers will get a lot of help along the way from USO and other agencies,” Kraus said.

Other groups are working on programs for soldiers who will be away.

The Association of the United States Army is soliciting businesses, community groups and others for its “Adopt-a-Platoon” program. The program connects local groups with soldiers overseas to provide support in whatever way they can.

“It may be a letter to a soldier who has not received a letter for the last two to three months or ... a care package for some people who are not receiving care packages with other people in the platoon,” said George Vickers, president of the AUSA in Hawaii. “It could be reading material — a whole host of things.”

At home, the Army already has held a series of deployment briefings to help families get affairs squared away before the soldiers leave. The deployment is scheduled to last about a year.

Lundy has advice for families going through a deployment for the first time.

“You’ll have your good days and your bad days,” she said. “Keep some sort of consistency, if you can, with your regular, normal life that you and your husband have established with your family here.”