Family Day bittersweet for guardsmen - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Family Day bittersweet for guardsmen

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December 5, 2004

Albany- National Guardsmen and their wives race to wrap gifts and decorate the armory before the rest of their family members arrive.

"We want to go out in a bang. It's crying time, but's it's happy time too," says Sgt. Major Phillip Stringfield.

It's a happy time because after all it's Christmas and that means spending time with family, but as soon as the presents are unwrapped the soldiers will say goodbye.

"I'm just going to give him plenty hugs and kisses before he goes and let him know we're going to be here when he gets home. That's going to be very important for them to know there's going to be someone here supporting them," says Stringfield's wife Yvonne.

That's why in addition to the Family Day celebration Sgt. Major Phillip Stringfield and his wife will try to arm the families with tools they'll need to stay strong while their loved ones are away.

"Once the soldier has the mind set that his family's being taken care of in the rear, he does a better job for me," says Sgt. Major Stringfield.

But guardsmen like Specialist Linfred Davis find it hard to hold back the emotions of his first deployment during what usually is one of the happiest times of the year.

"It feels strange because this is really my first time leaving my family. I don't want to get tearful eyed, but if it had happened during a regular time it wouldn't have been as hard as it is."

"You know there's that long going without talking to them. It does get hard, but he fights for our freedom everyday and what can you do but support him," says Lori McDonald as she looks at her husband Company Commander, Captain Andrew McDonald.

This is almost the tenth time Captain Andrew McDonald has had to leave his wife Lori's side because duty called, but it hasn't gotten any easier.

"They bear the brunt of this. So, when you hear the politicians talk about sacrifice I personally believe it's more of a sacrifice on the families, the wives, the children that are left behind," Cpt. McDonald says.

So, because these military families are willing to let their loved ones go and step into the line of fire, the guardsman say they'll show them enough love to last two Christmas seasons, this one, and the one they'll spend fighting miles away from home.

The guardsman will go through five months of intense training at bases in both Georgia and California. They are expected to leave for their twelve month tour in Iraq by mid-summer.

Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com