Guardsmen from Hallsville being deployed

Wednesday, November 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:05 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

For one family in Hallsville, the war in Iraq could soon become a father-daughter affair.

Hallsville’s 23-year-old Roberta Howell, a member of the 1139th National Guard unit based in Moberly, is serving as a military police officer in Baghdad. Her 56-year-old father, Tom Howell, is preparing to report for duty Sunday as part of the 128th National Guard reserves in Columbia.

Leona Howell said her husband is expected to go to Fort Leonard Wood in south-central Missouri early next week.

“He’s going to be trained, from what we’ve been told, as an MP,” she said Tuesday, adding that her husband’s specialty was artillery when he joined the National Guard in 1980.

Another Hallsville resident, Stephen Smith, is being mobilized with the 428th Army Reserve Transportation Company based in Jefferson City and expects to leave Dec. 10. Smith, a Hallsville alderman, told the city council on Monday that he’s resigning his elected position because he expects to be gone for eight or 10 months. Leona Howell said images of war in Iraq have been especially intense since her daughter relocated from Kuwait to Baghdad earlier this year.

“When my husband and I both see stuff on TV, our eyes are glued and we’re trying to see her,” Howell said.

She’s unsure of where her husband will eventually be deployed.

Communication between Roberta Howell and her family has been sporadic.

“We started getting letters, then phone calls,” Leona Howell said. Because of the time difference, phone calls often come in the middle of the night.

“She’s been e-mailing the last couple of weeks,” Leona Howell said.

The last e-mail came on Monday, but the Howells sometimes go for weeks without any news.

“On a day-to-day basis, I deal with it,” said Leona Howell, who also has 29-year-old twin daughters and a 16-year-old son.

Roberta Howell enlisted in the National Guard when she was 17. She always knew she wanted to join, her mother said. Howell was sent to Kosovo for six months in 2001 and 2002.

Tom Howell joined when he was 30 when it meant more money for his family and the means to put himself through school. He attended Columbia College on the GI Bill, and the only times Howell was called up were in 1993 and 1995 to help with Midwest flooding.

Stephen Smith joined the Army after graduation from high school and served for three years. After getting married, he re-enlisted in the Army and served in for another five years. At the age of 49, Smith enlisted in the Army Reserves in July pending his retirement from CenturyTel.

Smith, 53, has two children and six grandchildren. Penny Smith said she learned that her husband had enlisted in the Army Reserves on their 27th wedding anniversary.

“I knew he’d been talking about this,” Penny Smith said, “but I was hoping he wasn’t going to do anything.”

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