It’s a sad and familiar scene as Missouri vets return for duty in National Guard

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Photos and story by Tim Sampson
Missouri News Horizon
Jefferson City, Mo. -- As a group of Missouri National Guardsmen here prepared to ship out for a year-long peacekeeping mission in Egypt on Tuesday, many parents and their grown children shared tearful goodbyes. But in some cases, it was the parents who were being deployed.

It’s a relatively new phenomenon. Inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and motivated by the struggles faced by an all-volunteer fighting force that has been stretched thin, many former veterans have reenlisted in the armed services and are being deployed for the first time in decades.

“I got a nephew who’s been on three deployments and thought maybe I need to do my turn,” Sgt. Nate Erwin said. He added, “There’s a lot of nervousness, a lot of pride. I’m missing my family already, but I’m doing what needs to be done for our country.”

Pictured right: The oldest member of her National Guard unit, Spc. Cheryl Moyer, 53, receives an American flag from Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, while Gov. Jay Nixon hands a state flag to the unit's youngest member. Moyer is among the a number of retired veterans who have re-enlisted in the National Guard since the Sept. 11 attacks nearly a decade ago.

As part of the 6th Rotation of the 1st Support Battalion of the Missouri National Guard, Erwin bid farewell to his wife and grown children on Tuesday amidst the intermingled sounds of patriotic songs and tears. It’s customary for family, friends and state leaders to gather at the armory for a small, solemn send-off ceremony.

This is Erwin’s first deployment in 25 years, after a six year stint in the Navy. But he’s still not the oldest member of his unit. That distinction belongs to Spc. Cheryl Moyer, 53, an army medic and grandmother from Cape Girardeau.

Moyer first served in the army from 1979 to 1985. There she met her husband. The couple gave birth to their first of three daughters while on an army base in South Korea. Although she’d been a civilian for two decades, Sept. 11 roused Moyer back to service.

Pictured left: Friends and family of Missouri National Guardsmen in the 1st Support Battalion look on during the deployment ceremony at the Jefferson City armory. The soldiers shipped out Tuesday for a 12-month peacekeeping mission in Egypt.

As part of the deployment ceremony, Moyer, as the oldest member of the unit, was given charge of an American flag by Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner. During this part of the ceremony, one of her daughters, Amber Moyer, shot to her feet and cheered her mother.

“It’s hard, we’re all a little emotional, but we couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Amber Moyer of her mother’s return to service.

But Amber Moyer said the 12-month absence will be especially rough on her children. The Moyers are a tight-knit family, where the kids are used to regularly seeing “Mama.”

“My son’s 4, so I think he’ll realize what’s going on,” she said. “He’ll be asking ‘Where’s mama? Where’s mama? I want to see mama.’ But he can’t see her.”

This new tour of duty for Moyer and Erwin promises to be different than their earlier experiences. The global balance of power has shifted dramatically. The soldiers are aware of the increased challenges posed by the instability in Egypt after the recent revolution.

Pictured left: Members of the Missouri National Guard 1st Support Battalion Rotation 6, listen intently during their deployment ceremony at the Jefferson City armor. The soldiers shipped out Tuesday for a 12-month peacekeeping mission in Egypt.

It was a point emphasized by Gov. Jay Nixon, who was on hand for the send-off ceremony. The battalion will specifically be stationed in the Sinai Peninsula to back-up troops working to preserve peaceful relations in the Middle East.

“Your mission in support of task force Sinai gives all the people of Missouri great pride that citizens soldiers and airmen from our state are helping to keep the peace between Egypt and Isreal in a part of the world where piece right now is very fragile,” Nixon said.