Hudson soldiers bound for Iraq with Bravo Company
Two Hudson soldiers are among the 135 members of New Richmond's Bravo Company that boarded buses on Monday, bound for Fort McCoy and eventually Iraq.
It will be the second tour in Iraq for Pfc. Kevin Hartman.
Hartman enlisted in the regular Army shortly after graduating from Hudson High School in June 2004.
He spent 2005 manning a 50-caliber machine gun on top of an Army truck that patrolled the streets of Baghdad.
2nd Lt. Eric Shimon is looking forward to his first deployment.
Shimon enrolled at UW-Stevens Point after graduating from Hudson High in 2003. He joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) in college and was a Wisconsin National Guard officer upon graduation.
Shimon had just a couple of weeks off between completing six months of officer training and leaving on the 13-month deployment with Company B of the 1-128th Infantry.
"I knew what I was getting into when I signed up. I knew I wanted to do it. So it's time I serve my country," he said during a family day at the New Richmond armory last week.
Bravo Company is participating in the largest mobilization of Wisconsin-based troops to a combat zone since World War II.
About 3,200 soldiers are part of Wisconsin's 32nd Infantry Combat Team that received word last October that it would be called to active duty in February.
The 1st Battalion of the 128th Infantry also includes Company D of River Falls and other companies based in western Wisconsin. Company D is believed to have soldiers from Hudson, too.
After a short stay at Fort McCoy, the Wisconsin soldiers will train for several weeks at Fort Bliss, Texas. They leave for Iraq in April for what is expected to be a 10-month tour.
Capt. Andrew Johanson told the New Richmond News that their job will be to take over a detention facility for criminals and captured insurgents.
"It will be a new mission for us," Johanson said.
Bravo Company had a busy week before its departure.
On Tuesday, Feb. 17, the company attended a send-off for the 32nd Brigade at the Alliant Energy Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison.
The participates in the ceremony included Gov. Jim Doyle, members of Congress, state legislators, National Guard officials and the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.
Doyle presented Col. Steve Bensend, commander of the 32nd, with a state flag to fly in Iraq.
"It is my hope that this flag reminds you of the family, friends and strong support awaiting you back home," the governor said. "I look forward to seeing this flag again when the Red Arrow Brigade returns."
The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is descended from the Army Red Arrow Division that served in World Wars I and II.
Areas churches, veterans' organizations, businesses and individuals hosted a family day for the company on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the New Richmond armory.
The soldiers - along with spouses, children, parents, girlfriends and boyfriends -- were fed a free meal, had their portraits taken, and received massages and door prizes.
The families were later offered free bowling at the New Richmond Bowling Alley.
Hartman's parents, Glen and Debra, were there to see him off, along with his sister Cassandra, brother Keaton, and grandparents Lyle and Jean Mickschl of Hudson.
Glen Hartman is a Hudson police sergeant. Debra Hartman is an assistant vice president at Hudson's Bank Mutual. They both are St. Croix EMS & Rescue volunteers and helped start the service's scuba diving team.
The Hartmans said they were a little more at ease about sending their son off to Iraq this time around.
"He's a little bit more comfortable with it than he was the first time," Glen said of Kevin. "He's been over there once. He knows what to expect."
"Still, it's going into a war zone," Debra said. "Once they get back home, then I'll give a big sigh of relief."
Kevin has been attending UW-River Falls since his three-year term with the regular Army ended in June 2007. He said he was just getting into the swing of college life when he got the latest call to active duty.
His truck was damaged by a roadside bomb during his first tour in Iraq. The explosion blew off the front end of the truck and impaired his hearing.
The Hartmans got that phone call from the Army that no parent wants to get - but, thankfully, Kevin's injuries weren't life-threatening.
Kevin's younger siblings said they are proud of him.
"I think he's one of the nation's heroes," said Keaton, a junior at Hudson High School. "He fights for his country. That's a very respectful thing."
Keaton added that he hopes Kevin remains safe while in Iraq.
Shimon's wife, Heidi, was at his side when he talked to a reporter during the family day activities.
The two have been sweethearts since their days at Hudson High School. They got married last July.
"We've been together so long we're always together. We're ready," the former Heidi Hanzevick said when asked if she had any misgivings about saying good-bye to her husband again.
"It's something he's always wanted to do. I want to support him," she added. "To support him is my goal."
Heidi also is a UW-Stevens Point graduate. She teaches fifth grade at the Hudson Prairie Elementary School and coaches the high school Raidaires dance team.
Heidi's mother-in-law, Cathy Shimon, used to be the principal at Hudson Prairie Elementary. Cathy is now the superintendent of the Clayton School District. She and her husband, Ron, still have a Christmas tree farm in the town of St. Joseph.
Eric and Heidi reside in the town of Hudson.
Company B left New Richmond aboard three aboard three tour coaches at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
Thousands of local residents lined the city's main street for the send-off. They cheered and waved American flags as the buses passed by.