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Army Families Prepare for Unit's Deployment to Afghanistan
Andy Telli
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, June 4, 2010
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS)—While the country was honoring its war dead on Memorial Day weekend, many soldiers at Fort Campbell were spending their last days with their families and loved ones before shipping out for Afghanistan.

The entire 101st Airborne Division—20,000 soldiers—is being deployed to Afghanistan, the division's fourth deployment since Sept. 11, 2001. Troops started shipping out several months ago for their one-year deployment, and they all will be in Afghanistan by August.

Sgt. Jeff Kent has been part of all four deployments of the 101st during his more than 10 years in the Army, and he has been in Afghanistan since March. "This has been probably the hardest," said his wife, Sarah.

"Murphy's Law definitely happens" when her husband is deployed, Sarah Kent said. "The weather is always bad when he's gone."

The recent flooding that hit Clarksville and other parts of Middle Tennessee left about two inches of water in the Kents' basement. "At first I was like, 'I can't do this anymore,'" Sarah Kent said. But when she saw the damage others suffered and what they were going through, she said, she decided her situation "wasn't so bad."

Whenever her husband has been deployed, Sarah Kent has found support and understanding from the Sacred Heart Faith Community of Fort Campbell, which straddles the Tennessee and Kentucky state line about 60 miles northwest of Nashville.

"I have a good friendship with Rita (Payne, the Catholic coordinator for the post) and quite a few of the other people there," she said.

Before her husband left for Afghanistan, the Kents were serving as sponsors for a friend and fellow soldier who entered the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. And their Catholic faith has helped them weather the separations. "That's something that's become more of a connection for both of us," she said.

Offering support to the soldiers and their families and trying to meet their spiritual and material needs is an important ministry for the Catholic chaplains at Fort Campbell, said Father Valentine Ugwuanya. During the deployment of the 101st Father Ugwuanya, a native of Nigeria, will be the only Catholic chaplain on the post. The other three will be deployed to Afghanistan.

One of his most important jobs is helping soldiers and their spouses get through marital problems, particularly after the soldier returns from their deployment, Father Ugwuanya said.

"That's what I'm dealing with here every day," he said. "Some people try to deal with things by themselves. That's what puts strain on marriages, when you have to deal with it alone, and not talk it over."

Father Ugwuanya can relate to the soldiers' experience. He lived it himself, coming back to Fort Campbell last November after a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan. "When I got back here, if I had a wife, my wife would have left me," he said. "I was on edge. I just wanted to rest and sleep."

During his deployment, Father Ugwuanya, who has been a military chaplain for 12 years, was constantly traveling throughout Afghanistan, celebrating Mass for the soldiers, civilian employees of the Department of Defense and NATO personnel, and providing counseling and other services.

"I was always on the go. I didn't even know when it was morning, afternoon or night," he said.

Afghanistan can be a dangerous place where it is often difficult to know who the enemy is and where they are, Father Ugwuanya said.

"You're in a desert, in an open place," he said. The enemy "can see you from anywhere. ... People are spying on you from all over."

"Then you have missiles," Father Ugwuanya said. "They shoot rockets all the time."
All of that can cause a lot of stress for the soldiers, he said.

And any deployment is stressful for the families back home, Sarah Kent said. "I'm always worried. If it's something I can't control, it worries me. I pray a lot."

Experiencing the deployments have not been easy, she said. "But it has definitely taught us a thing or two. We've learned we can conquer anything together."

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