SILER CITY — Kristen Baker has never been away from her 4-month-old son for more than nine or 10 hours, but that regimen will be history in a few days when her N.C. National Guard unit deploys to Kosovo.
I cant lie, said Baker, 22 and single. Im terrified of leaving him. I signed up for the Army before I had my son, obviously. But I made both commitments, and I stand by both commitments.
Despite her resolve, the Jacksonville resident was anticipating a tear-filled farewell, speaking before a deployment ceremony at the guard armory in Siler City on Saturday morning.
Im trying not to cry now, honestly, said Baker, whose civilian job is an office assistant at Food Lion.
Baker, who lives in Jacksonville, finds solace in the fact that her son will be well-cared-for by his grandmother and his godfather and that shes been told that the unit will have an Internet connection in Kosovo.
She anticipates visiting with her son via Skype or a similar video-over-the-Internet service if not every day, twice a day.
Baker is a specialist in the 112th Financial Management Detachment yes, numbers crunchers are soldiers, too which hasnt been deployed since it shipped out to Iraq in 2004. But its that time for 14 of the unit members, who are scheduled for a 10-month tour of duty in Iraq.
For many, its their first deployment.
Theyre supporting a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, a landlocked country in southeastern Europe, by handling financial functions such as payroll and accounting for government funds. The units military crest is emblazoned: Tarheel paymasters.
Many of the guardsmen say they were ready to go anywhere, including a combat zone such as Afghanistan.
As a soldier, Im prepared to do what Im asked, said DeAngelo Bennett, 31, who hails from Jones County in eastern North Carolina. Hes works in a beer distribution warehouse when hes not a soldier.
The soldiers loved ones, however, were relieved to learn that they werent headed for a war zone.
They also peppered the guardsmen with questions, such as: Where is Kosovo anyway?
I actually never heard of it, said Linda Brown, 48, of Northampton County, which is along the Virginia border.
Brown and her family attended the deployment ceremony in support of her daughter, Santina, who is bound for Kosovo.
A deployment dramatically changed Sgt. Maureen Havens life. But it wasnt her deployment.
The diminutive Panama native met her husband of 20 years when his Army unit was deployed to her country. He asked her to dance when he chanced upon her at a night club.
I was a military wife first, then I became a soldier, Havens said.
Her husband, Robert, has since retired from the Army. They live in Harnett County with their 15-year-old daughter.
Hes the military spouse now, Havens said.
Their daughter, Ashley, could be headed for a military career as well. Shes joined Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and, according to her parents, was quickly promoted to Staff Sergeant and is building up her confidence and leadership abilities.
Robert Havens said he wants Ashley to follow whatever her passion is and it would be fine with him if she joined the military as long as she goes to college first.
That would open up the option of being an officer, he said. That would be a better career move.