Editor's note: The 1-182nd Infantry Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard, based at the , is leaving this weekend for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan. The regiment's send-off ceremony will be hosted at Boston College in Conte Forum at 2 p.m. this Sunday. Melrose Patch will run regular columns from Bob Driscoll, chairman of the Melrose Veterans Advisory Board, featuring updates from the regiment during its deployment.
Cancel magazine subscriptions. Hire landscaper. Arrange snow removal.
These are some things people do when heading out on an extended vacation. For members of the based out of the Main Street Armory, they are just a few of the hundreds of items the soldiers are completing before deploying to Afghanistan for a year long tour. Imagine leaving behind your family, friends, jobs and community to serve your country in a far away world. Unfortunately as the country nears the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, it has become common practice for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
For the 1-182nd's Executive Officer (and Melrose resident) Maj. Eric DiNoto, this will be his fourth deployment. The key, he says, is having a good support system in place to help your family while you are away.
“My wife and I are blessed to live close to our parents; we also have many friends here in Melrose who lend a hand while I’m away," DiNoto said. "The Mayor of Melrose (Rob Dolan) is extremely supportive of the unit and really has opened his arms to the unit. We truly feel we are a part of this community.”
Part of his pre-deployment checklist included selling his house.
“We recently sold our house in response to my deployment; an old Victorian just was too much for my wife and children to handle," DiNoto said. "We are lucky we were able to sell quickly. We have moved into a smaller, more manageable arrangement while I am away. Her peace of mind is my peace of mind."
While Maj. DiNoto claims his many deployments have helped his family become resilient, it is always difficult on the children. When Mom or Dad are away for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays this can become painful and frustrating to them. To combat this, Maj. DiNoto has implemented several coping mechanisms to combat the pains of extended separation.
“My wife and I break the deployment up into pieces," he said. "For instance, we explain to the children that 'We will see daddy after his stateside training, then we'll see him when he is on R&R and after R&R daddy is heading back to Afghanistan to pack up and come on home.' I also make a photo book for each of my children. I select memorable moments, family vacations, outings and most importantly everyday events. I place hand written and typed notes within the book. During my last deployment to Iraq I did something similar. It was a great way for my girls to reflect on their time with me. Other soldiers in my unit video tape themselves reading children’s books for their children to watch while they are away.”
While the separation from family and friends is the most difficult part of any deployment, it brings comfort to know there are groups supporting their loved ones back home. The has adopted the unit and plans to work over the coming year with other agencies to include: The Friends and Family of the 182 (FF-182); The Claddagh Fund; The Ahern Family Charitable Foundation; Local Heroes; Military Friends Foundation; Boston College; Mayor Rob Dolan’s Office; the city’s Veterans Advisory Board; and the city’s Natalee Webb to support the unit’s families.
Maj. DiNoto, grateful for the overwhelming support, ended by saying, “I truly believe that we are only as strong as the bonds we make with one another, and that our successes are directly reflected by the relationships we build along the way. We are extremely grateful to all those who support our regiment, we could not do this without you.
This weekend the 1-182nd Infantry Regiment finish up last-minute items on their checklists, hug their families goodbye, and board buses for their year long journey of nation building in Afghanistan. We wish all members of the 1-182nd Infantry Regiment Godspeed and look forward to their safe return!
Bob Driscoll is the chairman of the Melrose Veterans Advisory Board and Sr. Vice Commander of the Harold O. Young VFW Post 2394. He is a Major in the Air Force Reserve and has deployed twice with his medical unit.