In October, Kyle and Suzi Pohl of Brainerd lost their 2-year-old baby girl, Mearan, to a rare, undiagnosed muscular disorder.
Losing Mearan was a painful ordeal that the entire family continues to struggle with.
Now their three sons, ages 5-12, are worried they're going to lose their father, too.
Kyle Pohl, a sergeant, is one of 145 Minnesota Army National Guard members from Company C, 142nd Engineer Battalion, based at Camp Ripley called to active duty on Monday.
He and the other soldiers in his unit will leave the camp Wednesday morning and fly to Fort Carson, Colo., where they will undergo additional training. Then they will be sent for up to a year to Southwest Asia to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
Pohl's upcoming deployment has been a devastating blow for his family. They continue to mourn for Mearan.
"This has really hit my family hard," said Pohl. "Suzi says she doesn't want me to go, but I know she's proud of me."
Pohl, who works as a radiology aide at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd, has been a Guard member for nearly 18 years.
The Pohls found out Monday about his deployment.
"We can't even fathom this. It's surreal," said Suzi Pohl. "You just can't believe it. I think we thought this was a possibility, but we hoped it wouldn't happen. I have no idea what we're going to do. Trust God."
The night before Kyle Pohl reported to duty Wednesday morning at Camp Ripley, Suzi overheard her youngest sons talking in their bedroom. They were talking about how their dad might die, just like Mearan, she said.
"Now that they have an understanding of death, it's very difficult for them," Suzi said.
When Kyle Pohl reported to duty Wednesday morning at Camp Ripley, it wasn't clear whether he would be able to return home that night or if he would have to stay at the camp until his departure. That morning, tears were shed, hugs were shared and Suzi gave him photos of their sons, Gavin, 12; Keegan, 9; and Bracken, 5, as well as a photo of Mearan, to take with him during his year away from his family.
Luckily, he was able to return that night. The family has gone out to dinner several times this week, a treat for Kyle since he'll be eating military rations for a year. Kyle has been trying to get in as many chess matches with his sons as possible before he leaves. The boys are excellent chess players, but they are no match for their dad.
"He's their buddy," Suzi explained. "They know their dad is going to serve his country. Yesterday in the car Gavin said, 'Dad's cool.' and Bracken said, 'Yeah, dad's cool.'
"The boys even asked tonight, 'Should we take you out for supper, dad?'"
Kyle's parents, Dick and Sharon Pohl of Pequot Lakes, have visited their son and his family many times this week.
"I guess I don't like it too good but it's gotta be done," said Dick Pohl.
"We want to be here with the family to show our support," added Sharon Pohl.
Suzi said she still receives anywhere between 200-400 hits per day of people checking out the Web site she created last year to keep people updated on Mearan's struggle with life. Now she's found comfort in journaling on the Web site about her feelings about Kyle's departure. Visitors have left supportive messages for the family.
On Wednesday, Suzi wrote about how proud she was of her husband:
"He is facing the total unknown. He does not know where he will be going for certain. He does not know how long he will be gone. He does not know what he faces in the way of opposition. But do you know what this wonderful man said to me last night? 'I will wait and follow behind God, Suz.' He also told me that before Mearan, he was always afraid of death, but Mearan taught him he could face anything, as she did, with a hum and a smile."
Suzi said she hopes that area residents will support the men and women, like her husband, who will soon leave to serve their country, regardless of their own personal political views.
"I'm proud of my husband because he's serving his country," she said. "Do I wish he was staying here? Yes, I do. But I'm proud of him."
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