CAMP RIPLEY -- Rachel Loscheider, was a first-grader when her father left for the Persian Gulf War. Wednesday the tables were turned.
The 19-year-old, outgoing and personable with red hair and a big smile, was in her first week in college at St. Scholastica in Duluth when she received the call. A radio operator, Loscheider was activated with her unit, Minnesota National Guard Company C, 142nd Engineer Battalion, based at Camp Ripley.
Wednesday her family gathered around her to be together during the last few minutes before the unit boarded transport planes to depart Camp Ripley.
She was planning on majoring in international studies. Her family said she was getting an early internship with field experience in the subject. Loscheider's unit is departing for Southwest Asia for an indefinite amount of time. The deployment could last up to a year.
It is a familiar scenario for the family that lives west of Little Falls. Ron Loscheider was the one leaving 12 years ago. He spent seven months away from home with five of those months spent in Saudi Arabia.
He said it was hard to leave his small children who were too young to really understand why he was gone. Rachel Loscheider was 6 years old then.
"I remember him being gone," she said. They wrote to him and made tapes. And people kept coming over to the house to help with items like cutting wood.
She said the role reversal is kind of strange. "But it's all right," she said. "It's all right."
And she said with her family's experience she did not need to spend as much time reassuring them. They knew the drill. Her grandfather was in World War II. Her grandparents, Leo and Germaine Loscheider, live in Little Falls. They have a close relationship.
"They are proud of her," Kathy Loscheider said of her daughter's relationship with her grandparents. She said her daughter's biggest fear is that she would lose a grandparent while she was away.
The family stood in a sea of people, although each group became a separate and surprisingly private group in the crowd. Soldiers were of every height and age group. Men and women. Teen-agers and grandparents.
Rachel Loscheider said there were engaged couples who were forced to put weddings on hold because of the sudden deployment.
Many held children.
"That's what we went through 12 years ago," Kathy Loscheider said as she watched tearful groups of families with small children. "Small children love their dads. So those are the people who have it the worst."
Rachel Loscheider waited with her parents and her 17-year-old brother Joe. A younger brother, who is serving as a legislative page, was unable to attend.
Soon the announcement for the departure came. Shortly thereafter Rachel Loscheider was walking in line where soldiers boarded powder blue buses. Another soldier stepped out of the line to give his small children one last hug.
A boy outside watched the buses depart. "That's the one my daddy was on," he said. A soldier reached out a bus window to touch family members by the hand.
And others boosted children closer to the window. There were cameras, waves and tears. Once the buses departed, people followed in their cars, parking on the side of the road to see loved ones take off in transport planes.
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