Mothers wore combat boots and gas masks on their special day By Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith and Spc. Luke Austin BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – The National Restaurant Association reports that Mother‟s Day, a 93-year-old American institution, is the most popular day of the year to dine in restaurants in the United States. MREs, as in Meals Ready to Eat, however, was the noontime fare for many mothers in the National Guard who were participating in the National Guard‟s homeland defense training exercise Vigilant Guard here during May‟s second Sunday. These mothers wore combat boots. They put on gas masks. They cared for people who were portraying victims of a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear detonation over Indianapolis. And, yes, they missed their families, perhaps a little more than usual, on their special day. Illinois Army Guard Sgt. Celia Rodriguez‟s first Mother‟s Day wasn‟t quite what she thought it would be because she was away from her 9-month-old son Vincent High. She was conducting decontamination operations at the Indiana National Guard‟s Muscatatuck Urban Training Center where Vigilant Guard was going on. “It‟s definitely hard,” said Rodriguez of the 135th Chemical Company for Machesney Park, Ill. “I‟ll be pampered when I return home, though.” She was already looking forward to a hot bath and a full-body massage when she went home later this week. Rodriguez said it‟s a small price to pay for her experience in the Illinois Guard and that she still enjoys training with the other Soldiers after 4½ years in the Guard. “For now, it‟s just another day,” said Rodriguez on Mother‟s Day. Staff Sgt. Sonia Garcia of the 35th Chemical Company missed her second Mother‟s Day in a row. Last year she was off to the Warrior Leader‟s Course for new noncommissioned officers. This year she was at Vigilant Guard and away from her 2year-old son Le‟Daethan Rice. “Everyday is Mother‟s Day at home if I want it to be,” she said, though she admits that last year was much harder because her son was a newborn. She said, however, she was proud to perform her military duties. Senior Airman Linda Howell, a medic with the Illinois Air National Guard‟s 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base, has a son who is 23 and a daughter, 17. “My daughter has a baby too, so I‟m a grandmother,” she said. Howell was providing medical support with a volunteer detachment from three Air Guard wings. That involved close coordination with the Guard‟s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) and civilian emergency medical personnel who extract victims from disaster sites and bring them to medical care. She triaged victims at a staging area and made sure they were stable before transporting them to civilian hospitals as part of the training. It was the first time she had worked with other military response units and civilian emergency responders, Howell said. Howell works full-time at a civilian hospital in Kentucky and is a certified nursing assistant who is pursuing a career as a registered nurse. “I spend Mother‟s Day in Illinois with my mom and my daughter, and my son is in the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., so he calls me to say „happy Mother‟s Day‟,” she said. She said it “bums me out” not to be with her family, but she was amazed to see all of the young people near her own children‟s ages who are training and away form their mothers. “It‟s amazing to see the sacrifice that they give, too, just to be here and to learn and help and train. It‟s awesome,” Howell said. Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Bruce, a medical administrator from the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill., was away from her children while helping to track the patients from the disaster training sites. “It‟s my first exercise with the civilian and Army teams, but we do exercises with the Air Guard every four years,” said Bruce. “It‟s a good experience to see different sides and different ways of doing things.” Bruce has two children: Zane, 14, and Kara, 2. “My kids are going to a parade with their grandmother today, and the family is getting together later for a Mother‟s Day dinner,” Bruce said. “I should be able to talk to them tonight, depending on when the exercise gets done.” Her husband cooked her a Mother‟s Day dinner and her family gave her a gift before she left for southern Indiana. “It‟s nice I got a have it,” she said. “It wasn‟t on the day, but I still got to experience it.” Bruce said that if Vigilant Guard was a real event, she would be doing it anyway. “You may miss a holiday or so,” she said, “but it‟s good to support the mission.” - 30 PHOTO CAPTIONS DSC_029 Illinois Air National Guard Senior Airman Linda Howell, who is a mother and grandmother, spent Mother‟s Day engaged in the National Guard‟s training exercise Vigilant Guard at the Indiana Guard‟s Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith, National Guard Bureau) DSC_30 Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. Celia Rodriguez was a mom wearing a protective mask on Mother‟s Day while taking part in the National Guard‟s training exercise Vigilant Guard. She was conducting decontamination operations at the Indiana National Guard‟s Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. (Photo by Spc. Luke Austin, Illinois National Guard) - 30 - Illinois Army Guard Sgt. Celia Rodriguez‟s first Mother‟s Day wasn‟t quite what she thought it would be because she was away from her 9-month-old son Vincent High. She was conducting decontamination operations at the Indiana National Guard‟s Muscatatuck Urban Training Center where Vigilant Guard was going on. Senior Airman Linda Howell, a medic with the Illinois Air National Guard‟s 126th Air Refueling Wing at Scott Air Force Base, has a son who is 23 and a daughter, 17. “My daughter has a baby too, so I‟m a grandmother,” she said.