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Military Reservists Get Call and ‘Shed a Couple Tears’

August 24, 1990

Undated (AP) _ When Maggie Eylers got word that she was among the U.S. reservists returning to active duty within the next five weeks, she called her lawyer to check on her will and a divorce settlement.

She also began preparing her four children, ages 15 to 21, for her departure.

″We talked all day . . . we shed a couple tears,″ said Eylers, 39, of Iowa City, Iowa. ″We’re all scared; that goes without saying. But we’re all confident things are going to be OK.″

To be sure, the 49,703 men and women being ordered into action chose to put themselves in the position of getting called. But the thought that it was their choice to sign up for the reserves did little to ease their anxieties, which extend to the jobs and accompanying benefits they’re leaving behind.

Meantime, they’ve been trying to get their houses in order, arranging child care, completing legal matters, and saying goodbye.

At Fort Benning, Ga., Spec. 4 Hollie Vallance cradled her newborn daughter in her arms, finding it hard to say goodbye.

″I love you. ... Take care of her,″ she told her civilian husband, Anthony Kirk, as she handed 7-week-old Cheyenne to him.

The sight of soldiers leaving their families was common at Fort Benning this week as the Army’s 197th Infantry Brigade began moving out to join the growing U.S. force in the Middle East.

Overwhelmed, Kirk struggled to explain his emotions. For the past two weeks, he and his wife - a 21-year-old medic - had talked about this reversal of roles. He practiced feeding and changing diapers. She cleaned her gun and packed her bag, careful not to bend the photographs of her first child.

″I’ve thought about it a lot. Like now,″ he said. ″She told me it’s just like a training maneuver. ... She’ll be back.″

Phoenix firefighter Rick Salyers has faced danger in his job, and he indulges in such risky hobbies as scuba diving and sky diving, but his wife and three children are worried that he may ship off to the Middle East.

″It’s the chemical-warfare stuff,″ said Salyers, the 35-year-old Marine Corps Reserve. ″I think that’s what worries them the most. My teen-age daughters are concerned. I could see the anguish in their faces.″

Said Mrs. Salyers: ″I tell myself I can take it, that it’ll be OK, but I really don’t know.″

The crisis in the Persian Gulf hit home elsewhere, too.

For a pair of 10-year-old girls with military fathers, the uncertainty of the situation inspired them to write a song.

Elizabeth Finocchio and Heather Hogsed of Fayetteville, N.C., wrote lyrics titled ″What’s Going On?″

″I almost cried when I read it,″ said Heather’s mother, Pamela Yarborough. ″It really shows how they felt and that they’re kind of frightened by what’s going on.″

In Newburgh, N.Y., some 150 members of the 137th Military Airlift Squadron based at Stewart International Airport were briefed before going to the Persian Gulf, said Ed Weber, the deputy commander.

″That means talking about things many people don’t like hearing about, like wills and insurance,″ he said.

Reservists also worried about other things that they would prefer not to - like job and health benefits.

″It’s been so long since a mobilization occurred, I think some people joined up thinking it would never happen,″ said Lt. Bruce Fowler,executi ve officer of the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Alameda, Calif.

While federal law protects reservists’ jobs, some personnel could lose out financially.

″My biggest concern is for some of the junior people who make only about $15,000 a year in the military,″ said Fowler. ″They may have higher civilian salaries, and the (San Francisco) Bay area is an expensive place to live.″

Under federal law, an employer must provide returning reservists with their job or one with comparable seniority, status, pay and any raises they might have received.

One of the benefits of military service is that reservists and their families are covered by the Defense Department’s health and life insurance programs. Relatives also have access to cut-rate military grocery stores.

But the military medical plan becomes active only after the reservist has been on duty for more than 30 days, meaning there could be problems for those who serve fewer than 30 days.

Some companies, including Pacific Bell, continue health benefits until military benefits start.

IBM, which has about 19,000 people in Silicon Valley, also will help with health benefits. In addition, IBM will make up the difference if a worker makes less money than they did at their former job, said company spokesman Walt Kesshan.

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