PLATTSBURGH — As Specialist Christian Nieves readies for war, his thoughts aren't about his safety.After all, this is the job he's been trained for.Nieves, who is deploying to Iraq, worries about his 15-month-old son, Isaiah."He probably won't remember me when I get back."Nieves is a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve's Plattsburgh-based 962nd Ordnance Company, which has been activated for a 400-day deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Soldiers, friends and family gathered at the armory Wednesday afternoon for a deployment ceremony."This is the highest honor I can be involved with," said Plattsburgh City Mayor Donald Kasprzak. "You have a mission I firmly believe in. I am proud to be associated with all of you."The 962nd Ordnance Company, organized on Sept. 8, 1944, was ordered to active duty during several conflicts, including the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm.The organization relocated to Plattsburgh in 1961 and was ordered to active duty in March 2003, although they weren't actually sent to Iraq.For this latest deployment, soldiers will travel to Fort Hood for around two months of training before leaving for Iraq, probably some time in July."Since the beginning of our nation, our government has called upon citizens to protect our shores and interests," said Lt. Col. Richard G. Miller, who presented the soldiers with a flag, which had been flown over the nation's Capitol, to take with them."Bring it back safely. Bring everyone back safely with you."Command Sgt. Maj. Nagee Lunde addressed the soldiers next, abandoning the podium to gather the soldiers in a circle as he spoke. His deep voice echoed through the armory."Only when you become a team will you come back as one. It's all in your hands. Keep your nose clean and do your job."Company Commander Capt. Richard Kimball said the soldiers will run an ammunition supply point in Iraq.Kimball, who joined the military for adventure and college money, has known since returning from Afghanistan that the company would be sent to Iraq.
He will have to leave his wife, Linda, and daughters, Lauren and Megan, and has been telling soldiers to prepare their families.But there's little consolation for loved ones left behind.Phyllis Williams said the departure of her son, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Fred Atkinson, is a nightmare for her."When he first told me, I kept saying, 'No, God, no.'"When he was born in 1969, his father was in Vietnam."He wanted to be in the Army, just like his father."Williams is proud of her son but wishes she could close her eyes and have the next year pass by like a day."I told him I will be the strongest mom," Williams said, turning to Atkinson's wife, Fran, and hugging her.Fran and Fred were married March 5 by Kasprzak.Fran watches news reports that indicate the situation in Iraq is worsening. She tried to express her thoughts Wednesday, but tears replaced her words.Looking toward the soldiers, she did manage to whisper, "It's a little more real sitting here today."Fred, who is station commander for Plattsburgh-based New York State Police, said the deployment is simply "what we are trained to do."He hopes the community supports his wife and other family members while the soldiers are away.People like Amber Hurlburt, who will be a single mother during that time, will need the support. She and Nieves plan to marry before he leaves.On Wednesday, their son, Isaiah, stuck close by his father's side.
"I don't know what to expect," Hurlburt said, eyes wet with tears. "It's terrifying."