Megan Vicknair is under no illusions about what her husband, Staff Sgt. Daniel Vicknair, will encounter when his National Guard unit is deployed to Afghanistan later this year.
She has first-hand experience of what life in a war zone is like.
Megan Vicknair, a National Guard staff sergeant and medic, returned from a nine-month deployment in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 4, just in time to see her husband start preparing for his second deployment overseas.
“It’s like I told him, it could be worse,” Megan Vicknair said. “We could have high-fived in the airport.”
Having been on that side of a deployment, Megan Vicknair said she can relay to the other families what the troops are going through.
She said she would be more than happy to talk to families and ease their worries if they do not hear from their loved ones for a few days.
“For me, I know what he’s doing and I don’t have to fret,” she said. “I know he’s busy.”
“Some people just have the whole thought of being in Afghanistan, everybody’s got a great chance of getting killed every day, so people start panicking,” Daniel Vicknair added. “That’s really not the case.”
The Vicknairs and their 4-year-old son, Preston, joined the families of the nearly 100 other Army National Guardsmen in the 927th Sapper Company, 769th Engineering Battalion, who will deploy later this year, for a farewell party and family day Saturday at the National Guard Armory on GSRI Road.
The party was planned by members of the Family Readiness Group, a support organization for military families, and featured music, door prizes for the soldiers and well-wishes by state Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, and reality TV star and military veteran Glenn “Flem” Fleming from the Baton Rouge-based show “Sons of Guns.”
Businessmen from Gonzales joined together to cook fried fish and other Southern dishes for the families, while children frolicked on a water slide behind the banquet hall.
The festive atmosphere inside the hall belied the serious nature of the soldiers’ mission.
Donna Dufour, a member of the Family Readiness Group, said that although her son, Sgt. Darren Dufour, will be in a war zone, her religious faith will keep her strong. “I’m not worried, I’m not afraid,” she said. “What God has in store for him, it will happen in Afghanistan or the streets of Baton Rouge.”
For families with young children who may not understand exactly why their fathers are leaving them, Dufour recommended that parents do not emphasize the war aspect of deployments.
“In a child’s eyes, they should know daddy is doing a job,” she said, adding that was how her mother talked about her own father’s service in Vietnam. “Mothers should make their children feel secure and not put an emphasis on their fathers are going to war.”
In Afghanistan, the 927th’s main job will be to clear roads and dispose of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
“We’re the engineers that find the IEDs, dispose of them, or coordinate the disposal depending on the size of them, then drive off to find the next one,” Capt. James Hoover, company commander, said.
About 70 percent of the men have served at least one tour overseas, including Hoover, and morale in the unit is high.
The unit was placed on alert in January and since then has been training for the deployment. Around Sept. 23, the unit leaves for Fort Bliss, Texas, where it will remain until departure for Afghanistan in November.
The 927th’s ultimate destination in Afghanistan and to which unit it will be attached remain undetermined, Hoover said.
He said since things are constantly changing in the war zone, it is hard for the veterans who already served a tour to explain to the new soldiers what things are like overseas. “It would be folly to try to anticipate what’s going to happen because the job changes,” Hoover said.
But anticipating what may happen in Afghanistan is something Staff Sgt. David Thompson and his wife, Tuesday, did when they learned he would be deployed.
For David Thompson, this will be his second assignment in Afghanistan, so he is aware of the dangers. At Tuesday Thompson’s request, he laid out all the possibilities of what could happen to him in Afghanistan.
“I just wanted everything on the table,” Tuesday Thompson said. “I wanted to know exactly what could happen, don’t sell me a fairy tale.”
Lynn Hoover, James Hoover’s mother, feels differently than Tuesday Thompson when it comes to knowing what to expect when loved ones are serving in foreign lands.
Lynn Hoover said that no matter what could be happening, James Hoover, or her other son, David Hoover, a Marine, would tell her everything is fine because they know how much she worries when they are overseas.
“You know,” Lynn Hoover said with a smile, “ignorance is bliss.”