Texas Guard members leaving McAlester

Friday, August 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ Texas National Guard members are going home Friday after guarding the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant for almost a year.

``I told my guys this might be the easiest tour we do,'' said a first lieutenant named Sean. ``Eventually, they'll be called up again, and it won't be in Oklahoma.''

Sean, who identified himself by only his first name, said he is looking forward to normal life again in Austin as a computer specialist for an Internet banking company. He and his wife are expecting a child in November.

Members of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry from San Antonio arrived in McAlester on Oct. 16 as part of national security measures after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The McAlester plant is the nation's main manufacturer and storage site for bombs.

The soldiers have only had a few chances to visit home.

``My wife took all the hits,'' said Ramiro, 45 of Brownsville. ``The bills, the mortgage. It took a toll.''

Ramiro, a master sergeant, has two children at home.

Victor, 25, from San Antonio got married one day after he was called up because he said he was expecting to be sent a lot farther from home. Since then, he was able to go home for the birth of his child. Victor, however, said his wife has had a hard time being a parent alone.

``I know she misses me a lot,'' Victor said. ``A lot of it is not being around. Our arguments are over the phone instead of in person.''

While McAlester was not tough duty, the guard members are not leaving without some loss. One soldier died Wednesday in a traffic accident at the plant and a second guard member is recovering from a broken leg.

Sean said the death keeps Friday from being a complete celebration.