June 9, 2009

Flood duty separates Va. Guard couple from child

By Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein
167th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Having to leave a child behind while deployed can be rough on anyone in the military. Perhaps doubly so when both parents are called to serve on a mission. But one Virginia couple that volunteered to help out with flood duty in southern West Virginia has found that not to be the case.

  Joshua and Donna McClanahan

Spc. Donna McClanahan and Spc. Joshua McClanahan are are among 30 Soldiers from the 1033rd Engineer Company assisting with Operation Southern Storm 2009. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Sherree Grebenstein, 167th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office )

After all, the little one probably won't even remember it. He's only 15-months old.

"This is why I joined the Guard, to help people out," said Spc. Joshua McClanahan, an administrative specialist with the Virginia Army National Guard.

Joshua McClanahan, and his wife, Donna, are among 30 Soldiers from the 1033rd Engineer Company assisting with Operation Southern Storm 2009.

The Virginia National Guard unit based in Cedar Bluff was asked to assist in cleanup efforts by the West Virginia Army National Guard's 111th Engineer Brigade, which is overseeing recovery operations in Mingo and Wyoming counties.

Joshua is no stranger to flood duty as he helped out with relief efforts in the aftermath of flooding in Welch, W.Va., in 2001.  And he's also pretty familiar with being separated when duty calls, even at the most inopportune time.

Currently, the 1033rd Engineer Company's full time training and administration specialist, Joshua was deployed with the 237th Sapper Company at Camp Taji, Iraq while Donna was pregnant with their son, Xavier. Fortunately, he was able to come stateside during his year-long deployment for his first child's birth on March 26, 2008.

And while the couple does miss their son, the pair felt they were needed on flood duty and didn't hesitate when their company got the call to assist in relief efforts. The Soldiers expect to be deployed for flood duty for about a month.

"We call him every night and talk to him," Donna said.  While mommy and daddy are away on military duty, Xavier is spending quality time with his maternal grandmother, Fayrene Ratliff, in Davenport, W.Va.

"I miss him, of course, but I am glad to be a part of helping to get these people's lives back together," said Donna, who serves as a medic with the 1033rd Engineer Company.  She added, "He'll understand some day."

This is the first time the couple has been deployed together. 

"I'm glad we are deployed together," said Donna, who, ironically, is a stay at home mom.

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