By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
To the Ohio Army National Guard, Maria Seta is a soldier. But for a pair of 14-year-old girls who came to bid farewell to Seta as she heads for duty in Iraq, the 20-year-old woman is a coach, mentor and friend.
Jenna Strauss and Darci Smith stood out in a crowd of 300 as they hoisted a banner for Seta at Sunday's "call to duty" ceremony for members of the 512th Engineer Battalion at Cintas Center.
Sgt. 1st Class Frederick McDaniel gets a hug from Nancy Bonner as he holds his one-year-old child, Mason.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
The girls' banner told Seta, a reserve volleyball coach at Deer Park High School: "Wildcats will be thinking about you."
"We're gonna miss her a lot," Jenna said.
On the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 40 camouflage-clad members of the Norwood-based battalion gathered for a send-off speech from Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.
Taft thanked them "for answering the call to protect our nation and defend freedom all around the world." Then he turned toward the audience and said, "Thank you for your support of your loved ones, and the sacrifices that you, too, are making."
After the ceremony, Pearl Dyer of Mount Orab affectionately stroked the back of her husband, Sgt. Richard Dyer. Seeing him leave before Christmas was hard.
"You're sad, but you're proud," she said.
The Dyers' son, Jacob, 8, doesn't quite comprehend how long his father's 18-month tour of duty will feel. But their daughter, Lauren, 11, said she knows it's a long time. "We're really sad," she said, noting that her dad is also the leader of Junior Girl Scout Troop 5915 in Brown County.
Sgt. Dyer embraces his duty, but said he will be eager to return home from day one. "There's nothing in Iraq I want to see - except it getting smaller in the rear view mirror, coming back."
The battalion will undergo a month of training in Indianapolis before joining other forces in Iraq.
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