Special Report: East Texas Soldiers Answer Call For Duty - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/29/04-Ft. Polk, Louisiana

Special Report: East Texas Soldiers Answer Call For Duty

Captain Andrew Wildrix from Henderson is a Logistics Officer for the 2nd of the 112 Armor: 

"I've had plenty of opportunities to get out but now I'm at the point where I still have loyalty to the troops I've been with," says Captain Andrew Wildrix. 
From the barest essentials such as food and clothing, to vital needs likes weapons and ammunition, Andrew answers the call each day to supply troops the tools to fight a successful war. It's a job the Henderson native takes very seriously. "You put a face to everything you do. So when you don't do something you have to picture the guy who's suffering for your mistakes or for the things you failed to do." 
With a January 1st departure to Iraq fast approaching, what Andrew is not prepared to do is say goodbye to the happy little two-year old that calls him "Daddy". "It's difficult to be away," says Andrew wiping away tears. "He just wants to make sure that every time he wakes up that I'm there for him... and uh...usually when he goes to sleep he sees his daddy before he goes to bed." Andrew will likely miss his son, Aaron's, first day of Montessori School in April and the infinite curiosity of a growing toddler. "He tells me what he's up to, he tells me he loves me... he tells me what people are making him do that he doesn't want to do." Despite the agony of leaving loved ones behind, he sees the glory in his mission to restore peace in Iraq. "It's kind of that East Texas mentality where you serve your country," says Andrew proudly. "The opportunities I've been given by the military by virtue of being an American, it's your duty to pay that back whenever you're called upon."

Sergeant Daniel Hurley of Tyler is a Gunner for the 2nd of the 112th Armor:

"I have friends in high school that are active duty. Some came back some didn't," says Sergeant Daniel Hurley. The Tyler native wasn't called to go on this mission to Iraq. He volunteered for it, knowing that other friends in the military never came back alive. "I was sad but then again you know just being a soldier that's what happens. You just take it with a grain of salt and you move on." A graduate of Whitehouse High School, Daniel's army job as a Gunner is a far cry from what he does in Tyler. He trains horses and teaches East Texas kids how to ride them. The 20 year old now has the grown-up task of riding on top of an army humvee, his massive weapon in place to protect his fellow soldiers. 

Engaged to be married, Daniel says he'll wed his young bride-to-be when he returns. Although the length of his stay in Iraq is still uncertain. "[My fiancee's] father was in the service so she understands how it is and how it will be. She has faith in my duties and she's looking forward to seeing me again." And so will the rest of his immediate family, who worries at times but Daniel says they have faith in his unit and his "tough as nails" exterior. "I think it's going to be tough for them to say goodbye to me than it will for me to say goodbye to them. Because I know what I'm doing and I know what I'm getting into and they don't. But it will be o.k. because I know I'll see them again."

Specialist Doretta Fortenberry is the Command Sections Clerk for the 56th Brigade Combat Team. She graduated from Lon Morris Junior College:

Beside every man there's a good woman. Specialist Doretta Fortenberry represents the small percentage of them in the Texas Guard. "They treat you pretty equally they really do,"says Doretta smiling. "Especially when you can outshoot some of them they give you a lot of respect." Reporting for duty happened pretty fast for Doretta. She got her degree, moved into her first apartment, started her career teaching Kindergarten through 5th grade. But barely a week into the school year she was called to go to war. "They were all kind of in shock. It was my intent to be able to go and fight the war but I wasn't expecting it to be so soon." 
Her next assignment was breaking the news to her students. "I didn't tell them until the last day which I think that was best because some of them they did get emotional." Doretta too will be emotional, when she leaves her family for a country she's never set foot in before. "You have certain fears about that. Just because you could be shot at but the hardest part is just being away from your family for a year at a time and not being able to call them everyday or whenever you'd like. That's going to be the hardest part."

Colonel James "Red" Brown from Lindale is the Commander for the 56th Brigade Combat Team.

"We've got a lot of great East Texans that are in my brigade and I'm very proud of that," says Col. James Brown. He's got 25 years in the Army under his belt. But this Lindale resident says you never get used to leaving family and friends for long periods of time. "I'll miss my daughter's 2nd graduation from college at Texas A&M. I'll miss my youngest daughter's basketball season... I'll miss deer hunting in East Texas with my good friend next year." When James leaves for Iraq, his youngest daughter will be 9 years old, when he returns she'll be 11. He says some soldiers experienced a death in the family while they've been away, and recalls the complete opposite for one guardsman. "7 nights ago his wife gave birth to their first child and he's here! And he was prepared for mission the next day." Through it all, this East Texas businessman is able to mentor soldiers on and off the battlefield because of his veteran experience. But he credits the real support to the people in the city he's come to love. "All our friends, the school children in Lindale, the great teachers in the Lindale School District they all worked together to donate items for these soldiers it's wonderful we live in a place that gives so much."

The giving is not surprising, considering what all these East Texas soldiers are giving up, all in the name of freedom.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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