Reservists From Queens Mobilized
February 24, 2003
By Jose L. Llanes
It was the German author Bertold Brecht who spoke
about the conflict between social and family responsibilities, and
the pride of a completed mission coupled with the pain of those
Many of these feelings were in the air yesterday
[February 23], in the good-bye ceremony for more than 200 reservists
for the US Army, Division 77, Company 237, also known as the Regional
Over the last few months, during intensive preparations
for war, this division has seen more than 3,000 of its members leave
for command centers where they will receive final training before
being sent to their destination, which has not been revealed.
Especially considering this company's task, "the
repair and maintenance of motorized equipment," and from the
tone of the words of its leader, General Richard S. Colt, one can
get an idea of where these troops are going.
"They've wanted this war since September 11th,
when we lost six of our own. The troops will complete the mission
with dignity, caring for one another and returning home," said
The ceremony took place in Fort
Totten, an old military base located in the far eastern part of
Queens. It is the base of Division 77, which consists of
a total of 10,000 soldiers.
A significant portion of the members of Company
237 are Hispanic. About 100 family members helped with the ceremony,
taking the lead role in scenes that were truly moving: lovers saying
goodbye to one another, mothers leaving their children and vice
versa, grandmothers bidding farewell to their grandchildren, brothers
sending off brothers.
"I¹m feeling conflicted" started Elmer
Santiago, who is Puerto Rican. He is leaving his nine-month-old
son with his wife. Santiago is a veteran of the conflict in Bosnia,
where he displayed boldness and confidence. "You do what you
have to do."
At his side, a sad but smiling Cecilia Santiago
expressed her feelings "It's very emotional, but you have to
learn to struggle with the situation. When you are married to a
soldier, you assume that these things will happen."
Between the two, their young daughter Caleigh hugged
her parents, innocent of the situation.
On the walls of the ceremonial hall, summing up
the drama of the event, the names of previous soldiers of the division,
written in bronze, abounded from World War Two, Vietnam and the
"It's a difficult moment because I have a
four year old daughter and this is the first time I have been mobilized,"
said Rafael Rosa, accompanied by Charlie Lirio, both beginners in
the ways of combat.
"I'm proud to come to the call of the homeland
and the President," said Lirio.
"They are going to participate in a mission
to make the world safer," said Colonel Edward Kamarad, the
official standing to the right of Major General Colt.
But looking at the families, Kamarad said "Thank
you for being here during this difficult moment."
He called attention to the presence of women soldiers
who were being mobilized.
Some of them, like Ruth Román and Amy Hernández
are not only leaving behind husbands and children. Like many Hispanic
women, they are the heart and soul of the household, where they
are in charge of the majority of the responsibilities of running
"For me it is difficult, because I have my
two daughters of three and five years. And I do everything around
the house," said Hernandez.
"In my case it's different, because I'm a
full-time soldier and my kids are already used to this," said
"But for me ...," said Hernández, pausing,
"all my responsibilities will fall on the person who now has
to take care of the kids. My husband."
Translated from Spanish by Joshua Brustein.
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