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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2005

Guard unit gets teary send-off to Mideast

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ashley Wilburn, 12, David Lockert, and his sister, Pam Wilburn, hug during a farewell ceremony, above, for departing members of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard. The unit, based at Toledo Express Airport, departed yesterday for the Mideast. Ashley Wilburn, 12, David Lockert, and his sister, Pam Wilburn, hug during a farewell ceremony, above, for departing members of the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard. The unit, based at Toledo Express Airport, departed yesterday for the Mideast.
LISA DUTTON / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge

Kara Danner leaned her head on her mother's shoulder as she watched her father and other members of the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing file into a hangar on the military base beside Toledo Express Airport for a farewell ceremony.

"Today has been a tough day for her and for all of us," her mother, Wendy, said yesterday. "We feel proud and scared," she said before the strains of "God Bless America" filled the hangar at the start of the ceremony.

The Danners were one of more than 200 family members and friends allowed into a private ceremony to send off 200 members of the 180th Fighter Wing who left last night for deployment somewhere in the Mideast. Maj. Thomas Gee, spokesman for the fighter wing, said the guardsmen will join an advance team of 100 members of the 180th stationed in the Mideast. Their role, he said, will be to provide "aerial support to military operations in the global war on terrorism throughout the Central Command region."

Major Gee said the overseas squadron, which left in separate groups in the last couple of weeks, is expected to return sometime in the fall.

Kara Danner, 12, at left, was at the ceremony because her father is in the unit being deployed.
Kara Danner, 12, at left, was at the ceremony because her father is in the unit being deployed.
LISA DUTTON Enlarge

For Kara Danner, 12, of Lambertville, that will mean she won't be able to go for her usual run with her father, Sgt. Robert Danner. "I'll miss playing my PlayStation with him," the Bedford Junior High student said.

That's the kind of sacrifice Maj. Gen. Gregory L. Wyatt, adjutant general of the Ohio Air National Guard, alluded to when he said the unit's deployment also was "a call to duty for the family members."

"The nation and free peoples of the world will sleep better tonight," General Wyatt said, "because of the courageous men and women who wear the American military uniform."

He said the 180th Fighter Wing has a long history of serving with distinction in a number of conflicts. The unit was activated for World War II, the Korean War, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the first Gulf War in 1991, and was one of the first fighter wings in the air during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the general said.

As gray clouds hung over the hangar, family members gave a standing ovation and waved U.S. flags to the departing members of the 180th, who were wearing civilian clothes.

From the back of the hangar, Mike England of Wauseon, accompanied by his wife, two sons, and a daughter, tried to catch a glimpse of his oldest son, Senior Airman Elliot England.

Mr. England, who wore a button that said, "My son is in the 180th Wing," said he hopes his son's first deployment would not be too stressful. His son, a recent Bowling Green State University graduate, enlisted in the Air Guard right out of high school.

"It'll be almost normal. We're used to not having him at home. He's not been living at home since high school," Mr. England said, then added, "he's also never been stationed in the Middle East before."

Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:

krujumba@theblade.com or

419-724-6064.



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