To the editor:
As a member of the 144th Evacuation Hospital for more than 35 years, I had some real mixed feelings when my unit was mobilized. I joined the 144th when I was a junior in high school as an M/Day soldier. In September 1961 the 144th was mobilized for the Berlin Crisis and I went to Fort Leonard, Mo., for ten months. The unit at that time had only 200 people in it, and now we have more than 400. The unit at that time was a very close family and today that part of the unit has not changed. They are still a very big family.After returning in 1962, I became a full-time tech for the 144th and worked in supply, administration and training areas. During a four-year period while working as the training NCO, I was also the 1SG and got to know the people in the unit even better. Over the 35 years I have seen many changes in the 144th and the growth of the unit. The personnel in the 144th is of the highest standards of any unit in the United States, and the men and women in the 144th are the greatest. I was transferred to another unit in the Guard on the 24th of October 1990 after serving with the 144th. When the 144th was mobilized on Nov. 17 I was at the formation when the news was told to the troops. I felt that I had been left out, but also felt good that I did not have to leave at this time. I went home and as I went to tell my wife what had happened, I broke down and cried.
The following week I, along with many other full-time personnel of the Guard, helped the members of the 144th prepare themselves and their families for mobilization. It was hard for me to help with the paperwork for people that I had worked with for years to prepare to leave their families. There were times that I had to excuse myself because of how emotional I got. It was a tough week for all.
On Sunday morning at 12:30 my wife, daughter and boyfriend and I went to see the 144th off. It was very hard to see people that I had worked with for many years leave their jobs and families. The attitudes and morale of the personnel were as high as I have seen. They knew they had a mission and were willing to do their part. There were more than 1,000 family members and friends to see the troops march out of the armory and on to the eight buses. As they left the armory, the cheering and clapping started and as the last soldier went out the door, he yelled, "We'll be back." With this it brought more cheering and clapping from the crowd.
I will miss the men and women of the 144th for a while, but with our thoughts and prayers, it won't be long before they will be back home.
SFC. Larry N. Nielsen
Utah Army National Guard