Hardest Part: Leaving Family

Green Bay to Bosnia LogoThe dogs, the plants and everything else are on hold at the Ray Comfort house.

Comfort and his wife, Patricia, both captains and team leaders with Green Bay’s 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, are Bosnia-bound.

“My sister-in-law is doing the bills. I handed out the plants to two houses,” Ray Comfort, of Menasha, said Saturday as the 432nd packed up at its west side Green Bay armory for what could be as much as a year of active duty in Europe.

The Comforts will keep their personal belongings in one room and rent out their house.

Ray is scheduled to leave for Fort Bragg, N.C., the 432nd’s interim training location, on Thursday, Jan. 25. His wife will go on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

More than 100 members of the unit will be deployed in four groups leaving at different times. The first group of nine is scheduled to go Tuesday.

A real estate agent, Comfort has 17 years in the military with three to go until retirement. He served in Vietnam with the Marine Corps.

He’s looking forward to active duty. “You just train, train, train, train in these (reserve) units,” he said. “You never seem to get a chance to use it.”

Staff Sgt. Jim Nicholson is not as eager. “I’m not ready to leave my little girl,” said Nicholson, a Desert Storm veteran who leaves for Fort Bragg on Thursday.

Nicholson, 26, of Northport, near New London, didn’t have 13-month old Rebecca when he was deployed in the Gulf War for more than six months. He left on Jan. 6, 1991 — he and wife Karen’s first anniversary.

“Leaving my family is the hardest part of all this,” said Nicholson, a fisheries biologist at the Department of Natural Resources’ Wautoma station. “Two times in five years is not what I expected.”

But Nicholson said his wife, a first-grade teacher in Kaukauna, is “a real champion” about it. “I firmly believe it’s twice as hard on the people we leave behind,” he said.

“You have no idea what the community support means,” Nicholson said amid the bustle of activity Saturday at the armory at West Mason and South Oneida streets.

Soldiers filled Rubbermaid cargo boxes — aptly named Action Packers — with office supplies and stacked them like cordwood. Large plywood boxes came out of storage to hold cots and gear bound by truck for North Carolina.

Maj. Dan Ammerman, 35, of De Pere, will leave Thursday. “You have to live by certain values,” he said. “Serving the members of the unit and country are important to me.” Ammerman is an accounting manager at Schneider National in Ashbaubenon.

Staff Sgt. Lahela Corrigan, Neenah, won’t make the trip. She is expecting a baby in August.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” she said as she checked the inventory in one storage box. “I’m making sure everything on the list is in there.”

Corrigan served in the Gulf War in Kuwait where she assessed damage, mostly in schools.

Unit commander Lt. Co. Brian Kilgariff of High Point, N.C., will close down his Warrior Boat Co. until he returns. He’ll also leave behind his wife, a college professor, and son, a freshman at North Carolina State.

He formerly served in Central and South America.

Kilgariff said the 432nd is ready to go.

“There’s no question morale is high. If we can alleviate suffering and pain over there, it will be well worth the sacrifice we make here in the United States,” he said.

The 432nd will be peacekeepers and a liaison between the military and civilians in Bosnia, he said.

That means members of the Green Bay unit will conduct area assessments, study the infrastructure of the local government and identify private and voluntary organizations where civilians can get help.


By Karil Van Boxel
Green Bay Press-Gazette
December 31, 1995

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