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Guardsmen get sendoff at Franklin College

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As he talked to his children about his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Anton Polazkowyj assured them he won’t be running around a town carrying weapons.

When his 5-year-old daughter Natalie blurted out “I don’t want my daddy to die” during a quiet moment in church about a month ago, that led to kisses, hugs and reassurance for his kids. Daddy does construction work, and everything is going to be OK, he explained.

The Franklin resident was one of about 150 soldiers who were honored in a ceremony Sunday at Franklin College, where nearly 1,600 friends and family members said goodbye for the next several months.

The soldiers are from the 1413 Engineer Co., part of which is based at the Johnson County Armory in Franklin. The Indiana Army National Guard members leave for Texas today to start training before nine months of work in Afghanistan.

Once they arrive overseas in June, the soldiers will be helping close and tear down military bases that are no longer needed as the U.S. withdraws troops from Afghanistan.

The 1413 Engineer Co. includes carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Some were leaving their spouses and children for yet another deployment, and others were heading off for the first time.

This deployment is 1st Sgt. Michael Dunn’s second stint in the Middle East. His family knows his role and expects his absences as part of his job. He and his family live in Nashville, and 19-year-old daughter Dena is a student at Franklin College.

“I don’t know if they ever get used to it, but they understand,” he said.

Through the years, his wife Valerie has spent months parenting their two daughters alone and taking care of household tasks her husband would usually do, such as changing oil in cars and fixing the dishwasher or washing machine. During his 27 years in

the military, Dunn has been sent overseas with the National Guard repeatedly, serving in countries such as Jamaica, Honduras and Romania.

Since Dunn is second in command of the company, his wife will also have the responsibility of helping the other families by being available to listen if they need to talk or helping them find financial assistance if they need it, Valerie Dunn said.

“When I married him, I married the military,” she said.

Martha Lasher of Brownstown has also learned to do day-to-day life without her husband James Lasher, taking care of their four girls by herself, paying the bills and finding out who to call when the lawn mower breaks. James Lasher is deploying overseas for the first time, but basic training and other National Guard duties have taken him away from home in the past.

“You’re proud of them for going, but it’s always hard to be away from them,” Martha Lasher said. “I think people would think I was crazy if I weren’t nervous, afraid or scared.”

The deployment also is the first for Ronald McKim of Martinsville and Clinton Edmonson of Franklin. Both are excited about going to Afghanistan.

McKim’s wife of less than one year, Allison, has moved in with her parents so she won’t have to live alone, and she’s planned ahead for her husband’s absence. She’s thinks staying busy will help her cope, so she plans to take classes at Ivy Tech Community College in addition to working.

“It’s a new adventure,” Ronald McKim said.

Polazkowyj said goodbye to his three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, when he was dropped off at Franklin College for the ceremony.

That morning before the sendoff, Polazkowyj told them he was leaving to save the world.

“Go save the world, Dad,” they said.

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