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Farewell, 1158th
Times photo: Brian Gray Spc. Tim Schmid, South Wayne, holds his daughter Jalyn, 2, Wednesday during a sendoff ceremony for the 1158th Transportation Unit at the Wisconsin National Guard Armory in Beloit. The troops leave for Texas at the end of the month and then to Iraq.
BELOIT - For some of the troops in the 1158th Transportation Unit, this is the third time since 2003 they're being deployed.

For others, it's the first time.

There were some tears and some laughter Wednesday as 60 members of the unit, along with family and friends, gathered at the Wisconsin National Guard Armory in Beloit for an official farewell.

Spc. Tim Schmid, South Wayne, was deployed in 2003. It's difficult for him and his family as he prepares to leave once again, he said.

"My wife is handling it OK," he said. "It will be hard to leave the kids."

Sara Schmid and the couple's 9-year-old daughter, Jenna, understand Schmid will be gone for several months. The couple's youngest daughter, 2-year-old Jalyn, doesn't quite understand why her dad is going away.

"I think it will be hardest for the baby," Schmid said. "Our 9-year-old kind of knows what's going on but the baby doesn't."

No matter the age, saying goodbye is hard for the soldiers and their families as they prepare to leave for Texas at the end of the month followed by a nine-month deployment overseas to Iraq.

"It's harder to leave my family again," Sgt. Ryan Shell, Albany said. He's being deployed for the third time.

"It's hard," his mother, Beverly Shell, said, as she tried to keep her emotions in check. "It doesn't get any easier. I worry about him when he's gone."

The family will send letters to Shell while he's overseas, she said. His 13 nephews and nieces will write him as often as they can, as well, Beverly added.

"They all think he's great," she smiled.

Shell hopes to use a computer to be able to video conference with his parents.

Sgt. Wayne Marsh and his wife, Pam, and children Amber and Sheen, have been separated before. He served in Desert Storm in the 1990s.

Being able to use computers to stay in contact helps bridge the long distance between them.

"When he was in Desert Storm it took two months for him to get mail," Pam said. "This will be a lot faster."

It will help ease a little of the anxiety, but not all of it, Sgt. Michael Bennett, Monroe, said.

"I think it's harder for our families," he said. "We know they're here and safe but they don't know what we're doing or how we're doing when we're over there."

The 1158th's members knew last year they would be going overseas. Bennett said the year-long wait for deployment was hard for some of the soldiers and their families.

"I prefer the way they did it before. Just give us a few days notice and send us out," he said. "This gave us time to think about it."

As a veteran soldier, he understands the unit's mission and knows he has a job to do. But there are things he's going to miss.

"I'll miss softball season," he said. "I won't see my daughter again until she's a senior in high school."

He also understands that other soldiers who will go overseas for the first time will look up to him and other veterans for advice and support. Part of his job as a platoon leader is to help the soldiers in his unit.

Bennett has always wanted to be a soldier, his mother, Judy, also from Monroe, said.

"I'm proud of him," she said. "I worry about him but I'll just put my trust in the Lord."

Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, told the troops he was proud of them and said the troops are a shining light of hope.

"It's your spirit of volunteerism, your willingness to sacrifice and your unending dedication to your mission that will help lead us out of these troubled times and into a safer, brighter future," Davis said. "You are the best and most capable soldiers in America."

Davis told the soldiers the state and the nation are indebted to them for what they do.

"We thank you for your dedicated service. We thank you for your unwavering commitment to excellence. And most of all we thank you for doing your part to make sure that America remains free," he said.

Davis encouraged the families to call on others for support.

"While your husband or wife is fighting for us, we must and we will be there for you," he said.

The 1158th is part of the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade.

The 32nd Brigade is made up of about 3,500 Wisconsin National Guard troops. It's made up of units in 36 Wisconsin communities.

According to the Wisconsin National Guard, this is the largest deployment of Wisconsin Guard forces since World War II.