In a small armory office, Kathie Ladner and Laurie Landry are busier than ever. Ladner said she was moving "90 to nothing with my hair on fire" since the 155th Infantry left Biloxi last week. "It's been very busy."
Both ladies answer loved one's questions at the National Guard's family assistance center in Hiller Park. The big question Tuesday was whether families were missing a chance to see the soldiers up at Camp Shelby. "What's this about a picnic?" Landry asked the commander of the 155th during an afternoon phone call. "People are calling me and I don't know what's going on."
For almost 18 months, they've been a vital link between deployed South Mississippi National Guard troops and their families back home. Landry said, "A big part of my job is making a difference in somebody's day. Letting them know that they aren't alone, that somebody is there."
Ladner knows from experience how important a comforting word can be. "Anytime you can help or serve someone, it's absolutely rewarding," she said.
These are emotional times for both women. Not only do they have to counsel families, they must endure their own military ups and downs. Laurie's husband is with the 155th. So his military journey is just beginning. But Kathie is just 10 days away from getting her husband back from an Air National Guard deployment to Qatar. "Bittersweet," was how she described her feelings. "I know my household is about to return to normal. Where as I know Laurie's household and so many others in the area will be getting into an abnormal household."
Laurie is as prepared as she can be for this deployment. She based that on "strong faith, strong marriage, pride in my solider and what he does. I told him 20 years ago, I will stand behind you no matter what you decide to do."
So after a 20 military career, Laurie's husband has started his first deployment. To mark the occasion, Laurie bought a little collectible of a soldier. There's a Daniel Webster quote engraved on it. It does a pretty good job of summing up the roles of her husband, the 155th, and the family assistance center. It read, "God spoke. Liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it."
Laurie will keep the soldier in her office until 155th families can return to this empty armory and reunite with their soldiers. The family assistance center at Hiller Park works with National Guard families from the six coastal counties. Most of their members are with the 155th and the 890th.
To contact the office, call 228-388-3233.