Veterans plan send-off for Ohio guardsmen
LORAIN - About 100 soldiers of the Ohio National Guard unit, 837th Engineer Mobile Augmentation Company, stationed at the National Guard armory on Grove Avenue in South Lorain, are being called to active duty in Afghanistan. Deployment date is Jan. 28.
“I found out in November, 2011, that we will be sent over there,” said Justin Cisar, 23, Lorain, one of the U.S. Army combat engineers who will be deployed for the one-year tour of duty.
“We’re being sent over there for route clearance, making the roads safe from obstruction so the indigenous population can drive down the roads. We’ll be looking for improvised explosive devices,” Cisar said.
Making reference to the movie “Hurt Locker,” about a U.S. Army bomb squad in Iraq, Cisar said his mission and that of his fellow soldiers is like “Hurt Locker on steroids.â”
The National Guard unit is made up of soldiers from Columbus, Cincinnati and other cities across Ohio.
“We’re all very excited. We kind of wish we could have left shortly after the announcement was made to us because the anticipation is a killer. But we’ve been training hard for it and we know exactly what the mission is. We’re getting ready to take care of business,” Cisar said.
The unit will leave Lorain Jan. 28 for Fort Bliss, Texas, and then depart for Afghanistan. Cisar said their precise destination in the war-torn country is classified.
“We anticipate returning to the states in January or February of 2014,” he said. He and his wife, Natalie, have two daughters, Ava, 3, and 1-month-old Riley.
“She’s nervous and apprehensive,” said Cisar of his wife, “but understands that this is something critical to the whole theater of operations.”
Local veterans and Lorain are planning two events in connection with the Jan. 28 deployment.
On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Lorain Veterans Council is preparing a “send-off” meal for the National Guard unit and their families at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 451, 4562 Oberlin Ave., Lorain.
On Jan. 28, the date of deployment, a send-off is being planned to show the soldiers that the residents of the city and its veterans support them and thank them for their bravery and courage.
“The send off will involve our police and fire departments and will certainly be a small token of our appreciation for what they’re doing,” Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said.
“We want to show our respect and admiration to them and say thank you,” Ritenauer said.
“I’m not privy to national security and the overall intent (of their mission), but we want our troops home and safe. We hope it’s as short of a mission as absolutely necessary and that they return safely,” the mayor said.
“We want to line the streets with veterans and civilians,” said Don Attie, a Vietnam veteran and junior vice commander of DAV Chapter 20, Lorain.
“We want to give these guys a nice send off and wish them a safe return,” he said.
The deployment was discussed at a recent meeting of the Lorain Veterans Council, according to Attie.
“The VFW Post 451 stepped up to the plate to host the dinner. We wanted to make it something a little special. It started out with hot dogs and it grew,” Attie said.
Art Goodman, Lorain, a World War II veteran, said the last time he can remember a big send-off for veterans in Lorain was when his brother, Milton, left with a group of 60 inductees for Europe in 1944.
“Family and citizens were gathered at the old post office at Ninth and Broadway to see them off. There was a bus load of inductees who left at that time,” said Goodman.
Of the servicemen leaving for Afghanistan Jan. 28, Goodman said, “We want to show them all the support we can give them.”
“The Lorain Veterans Council wants to give them a send off, too,” said its vice president, Beverle Gelb.
“The way I understand it, the young men and women now in Afghanistan need to come home for awhile. And they will be replaced by this group,” Gelb said.
“We want to hold a dinner for them and their families. And, when they leave (for deployment), we want there to be a route lined with vets and regular old American people with flags, to send them off. It will be one of the first send-offs in a long, long time,” Gelb said.
Cisar said such a display of support from the public means a lot to him and his fellow soldiers.
“It gives you a feeling of pride and self-worth to know there’s a lot of support behind what we’re going to do. What we’ve been training to do is very important,” Cisar said.