City, University join forces and brave cold for 229th guard unit sendoff
The biting cold did not dampen the spirits of Platteville area residents and University of Wisconsin-Platteville students, staff and faculty who joined the ranks of well-wishers lining the streets as the 229th left the Armory on Water Street, drove north on Main Street and headed for Lancaster and possibly the Persian Gulf.
A huge American flag hung over the route, suspended from a Platteville Fire Department ladder truck and dozens of flags were waved as supporters cheered and clapped.
The sendoff followed ceremonies held Sunday afternoon in the Armory where more than 500 friends, family and community members gathered to recognize about 80 guard unit members called up for active duty.
The reality of saying goodbye to family members hit home for several residents and students.
St. Mary's School teacher Rachael Schroeder waved goodbye to her sister-in-law and brother-in-law as their vehicles carried them out of sight.
"I was at yesterday's ceremonies and it seemed surreal," said Schroeder. "It's hard to put it all in perspective. But I need to be strong now."
Today's send-off was harder, said Schroeder. "It seems like it's not real, just a movie." Family members Jeff Schroeder, a business student at UW-Whitewater and June Schroeder, an Edgewood College sophomore, will be missed, said Schroeder.
Schroeder said she would be discussing the morning's send-off with her American government class. "We will talk in depth about it."
Elementary school children are learning how the war is developing and how it affects home communities, said St. Mary's teacher Tina Davies. Prayers will be said at the school later in the day, she added.
UWP engineering students Keith Davis and Aaron Poster said goodbye to their close friend Steve Bryant, a senior majoring in criminal justice.
The send-off "makes the war more real," said Davis, who, along with several other students, gave Bryant a photo album with goodbye notes.
"It brings it home to Platteville," said Poster. "We've given Steve some parties and our best wishes."
Not all the well-wishers were two-legged.
Oliver, part golden retriever and part beagle belonging to Bryce and Jennifer Riemer, howled as the fire trucks blew their sirens.
Bryce, a public relations employee for UWP Pioneer Farm and UWP graduate student, said he was proud of the troops. "We just wanted to show our support by coming out. We thought the troops might appreciate the dog being there."
UWP Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Carol Sue Butts expressed wishes for a safe return.
"Our thoughts are with the soldiers of the 229th as they depart Platteville," said Butts. "We wish them the best and look forward to their safe return. And, to the members of the UWP family (students and employees) in this unit and in other units that have been activated, we look forward to the day when we will welcome you back home to UW-Platteville."