ST. CHARLES County • A sense of déjà vu swept over Evelyn Stankey as she watched her grandson-in-law, along with 54 other soldiers, take part in their deployment ceremony.
“I’m very proud of him, but I wish he didn’t have to go,” she said.
She had seen her husband, Robert Stankey, who died in 2000, say a similar goodbye decades ago. He served from 1943-1946 in the Army . When he came back from war, he never really described what he did overseas, outside of simply stating, “I drove a truck.”
While her husband was gone, Evelyn Stankey, who lives in the Baden neighborhood of St. Louis, worked for a pharmaceutical company and wrote letters to him. Now, at 98 , she’ll play the waiting game again.
Her granddaughter’s husband, Andy Casey, said he has promised her he will be back for her 100th birthday.
Casey is a specialist in the 279th Engineer Detachment, an Army Reserve unit, which held its deployment ceremony Thursday afternoon in the Francis Howell High School gymnasium.
A crowd of about 100 friends and family members watched from the stands.
Evelyn Stankey won’t have to worry too much about Casey. The detachment will spend a month training at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, before shipping out to Kuwait.
The detachment’s commander, Capt. Francisco Arocho, said the roughly nine-month deployment is expected to be in safe areas. They will spend their days repairing military facilities.
Still, heading into new territory can be kind of nerve-racking.
For Cody White, 22, Thursday’s ceremony marked the start of his first deployment. He said the only two things he’s worried about are the heat and the “unknown” — living a life so different from anything he’s experienced.
White is in good company. About half the men and women in the detachment have never been deployed, according to Warrant Officer Christopher Tripp.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Arocho tried to quell any nerves.
“I’ve been in your shoes,” he said. “You always remember your first deployment.”
Arocho was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, in October 2007. He also served in Afghanistan from 2011-2012.
What made him nervous on his first deployment wasn’t whether he could perform his job; he was mostly just worried about what was going on back home.
“It’s all right. That’s why we depend on one another,” Arocho said.
The detachment ended the ceremony by singing “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” Then, families and friends gathered with the soldiers on the gymnasium floor.
They will leave for Texas on Saturday.
While they are away, Evelyn Stankey said, she’s going to think of the good times.