100 troops called to active duty; overseas destination unknown
SAYING GOODBYE Gene McCarty says goodbye to his wife, Kathy, and their 19-year-old son, Tommie. McCarty left Wednesday for active duty with the Mississippi Air National Guard's 186th Air Refueling Wing. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 18, 2001
Wives, husbands, parents and children watched from the Mississippi Air National Guard base observation deck Wednesday as their loved ones boarded military planes and headed overseas.
No one knew where members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard were headed or when they will return. Even the guardsmen didn't know when they will return or if they will complete an entire two-year tour of duty.
One thing is certain: The 100 guardsmen will join more than 30,000 part-time U.S. military reservists and National Guard troops called to active duty since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Families said their last goodbyes before the guardsmen boarded a bus that took them to the KC-135 aircraft. Although guardsmen were told Monday they would be leaving, no one seemed prepared to say goodbye on Wednesday.
When Frank Dancy was drafted to serve in Vietnam, he was one year younger than his son is now. Dancy and his wife, Gloria, said goodbye to their 21-year-old son on Wednesday.
Marcus Dancy is a fueling specialist with the 186th Air Refueling Wing.
Marcus was scheduled to graduate from Meridian Community College in December. Those plans have now been delayed.
Frank said he found it tough to say farewell.
For Terri McWilliams, her daughter's call to duty was a nightmare until the news changed on Tuesday.
McWilliams' 29-year-old daughter, Jennifer DeBord, a Meridian police officer, had been told on Monday to pack her bags. McWilliams said her daughter was ready to go, "but I wasn't ready for her to go."
Then, on Tuesday night, DeBord received a phone call: Someone else would go in her place.
The news was welcome to McWilliams, whose 15-month-old grandson is DeBord's only child. McWilliams said a possible two-year duty tour for DeBord would bring grief on the whole family.
DeBord could still be called to duty at a later date.
Melissa and Tim Hamilton could spend their eighth wedding anniversary in December thousands of miles apart.
When Tim received his orders on Monday night, there was too much to do for tears to get in his and Melissa's way.
But when the men and women of the 186th boarded the aircraft bound for overseas, Melissa cried. She, along with hundreds of others, stood in the chilling wind until the planes were out of sight.
When the guardsmen reach their final destination, they will provide air-to-air refueling for a number of aircraft. Military officials said they could not disclose the details of their mission or exactly where they are going.
When at home, they train to support operational missions of U.S. Air Force tactical, strategic and airlift aircraft. Most of the troops have already flown in operations overseas, some in wartime missions and others in peacetime exercises.
Maj. Gen. James H. Lipscomb III, adjutant general of the National Guard, said the 186th has "proven their mettle" in global missions.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.