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Local families wait, worry in latest call-up of reservists.

Byline: Scott Maben The Register-Guard

Shannon Vyff has made two recent trips to Colorado Springs, Colo., to visit her husband before he flies off to war.

The Eugene couple may be apart for a year, maybe two.

"When he signed up he never imagined going to war," said Vyff, 27. "He imagined he'd be helping with forest fires and floods."

Pfc. Darren Vyff, also 27, is at Fort Carson, preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf within a week. The Oregon National Guard gunner is one of 100,000 to 120,000 U.S. troops on their way to bolster a force of 90,000 now in Iraq.

A pre-med student at Oregon State University, Vyff joined the service to pay for his education. He left school last month when his unit - 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry - was activated. About 1,600 National Guard soldiers from the state, including scores from Lane County, have been called up for the war.

Oregon Guard members at Fort Carson have spent weeks in a variety of battlefield training: marks- manship, wearing protective gear, bunker attacks, urban warfare.

"You train for all of those scenarios," said Maj. Arnold Strong, a public affairs officer with the Oregon Military Department.

The 405 members of the Forest Grove-based 162nd Infantry and the 146 soldiers with Albany-based Company B, 52nd Engineers, could depart for the gulf by Friday, Strong said.

"They likely will be deployed for a year," he said.

The president's mobilization of National Guard troops, however, calls for tours of up to two years.

Darren Vyff will be away for his birthday next month. He'll miss his 10-year high school reunion. (The couple met and fell in love at age 14, in honors English class in Wichita, Kan.) He'll miss his ninth wedding anniversary this July. He'll miss the next birthdays of the couple's children, who are going on 2, 5 and 7.

"Usually I could plan my life and we knew what we were doing," his wife said Friday. "Now this is happening. It's kind of surrealistic. I don't have that control."

The worst is not knowing where he will go or what he'll do when he gets there, she said. He could be sent to protect the long supply train stretching from Kuwait to the outskirts of Baghdad. He could go to an airfield in Turkey, if that country allows in coalition planes. He could be sent to northern Iraq.

"I haven't heard from my soldier yet," Vyff said. "It's kind of scary not knowing."

Amber Slattery, 21, of Eugene also traveled to Colorado to see her husband - Staff Sgt. Aaron Slattery, 28, of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. They were married in October, although they've known each other for years.

"It's tough. It's tough," she said at the Eugene insurance firm where she's a receptionist. "Constantly not knowing is the toughest part - not knowing where he's going to be, not knowing when he's coming back. If they would tell us a certain time, I could mark it off on my calendar. You know, 'Only 32 more days!' But they don't tell us anything. We're in the dark.

Some days, she said, "I just want to sit around and cry and feel sorry for myself and for him. You watch the news and see casualties, people from Portland or Corvallis. Then you get scared.

"I just want him to go over there already so he can come back."

Aaron Slattery, a respira- tory therapist and South Eugene High School graduate, spent seven years in the Army before joining the National Guard.

"Aaron is very patriotic," said his wife, a Newport native. "He definitely feels Saddam should not be in power. ... He just has such a great appreciation for the freedoms we have."

But she doesn't see this as a place that appreciates his convictions.

"There are so many anti-war demonstrations going on," she said. "I don't want people to not consider the men who are over there. The reason those people get to stand out there on the corner and protest is because he's willing to go over there and risk his life. So it's kind of difficult living in such a liberal town."

The couple probably will move after the war, she said. "You want to have a community that's supporting your family life."

Both Slattery and Vyff plan to join family and and friends of deployed National Guard soldiers today for a rally to support the troops at Centennial Boulevard and Coburg Road. They plan to wave signs and flags at the busy intersection all afternoon.

Vyff, who's working on a master's degree in nutritional therapy, made signs with her children Friday. She was trying to decide between "Let there be Iraqi democracy" and "It's liberation, not occupation." One of her children may hoist one that says, "Send more troops to help my daddy come home sooner."

OFF TO WAR

Scores of Lane County residents are in the war with Iraq or on their way. Many are with the following units:

MARINE CORPS RESERVES

Company A, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, Eugene: 169 Marines deployed

OREGON NATIONAL GUARD

1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Forest Grove: 405 soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., ready to deploy

Company B, 52nd Engineers, Albany: 146 soldiers at Fort Carson, ready to deploy

1042nd Medical Company (air ambulance), Salem: 108 soldiers in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Fort Bragg, N.C.

641st Medical Battalion (evacuation), Salem: 59 soldiers to deploy to Fort Bragg in mid-April

CAPTION(S):

Shannon Vyff and her two daughters Avlyse, 1, Avianna, 6, and son Avryn, 4, decorate signs for a weekend rally. Her husband, Pfc. Darren Vyff, is preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf.
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Title Annotation:General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 29, 2003
Words:948
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