There was no trace of military decorum inside the large cafeteria of Building 200 at Fort Totten in Bayside on March 31, and that was just what those gathered there for an early Easter celebration there needed most.
members of reserve soldiers from the 773rd Transportation Company—based in
Fort Totten, but currently on duty in Iraq—came to support each other and
find relief from the anxieties shared by all those left at home during
Yu has not seen her husband, Staff Sgt. David Yu, since he was called into
duty in November.
“They gave him orders for 365 with the stipulation that it could
extend up to two years,” Yu explained.
not mentioned by name, the efforts of the 773rd are often discussed in news
reports from Iraq.
“You know when they are talking about the supply line and the fuel,
that’s them,” said Vaneysha Darr. Her husband, Sgt. Raymond Darr, drives
trucks in the supply line.
most of the families of the 773rd, Darr last spoke to her husband on the
night before the onset of the war.
“He didn’t say much, all he said was that everything was going to
be started and he loves me very much,” Darr explained.
She added, “We won’t be able to hear from him until probably
everything is over with or calms down.”
Torres is luckier than most.
mother, the personnel sergeant for the company, was sent back to Kuwait soon
after the conflict began, so they are able to speak occasionally.
the war started, however, Torres faced the prospect of going months without
hearing her mother’s voice.
“I was crying and she said, ‘The only thing I can tell you is
that there are a lot of experienced people here and we’re all going to be
okay, they know what they are doing.’
And that was the last thing she had told me,” Torres recalled.
children of the 773rd had the run of the Fort during the Easter party, and
they received awards from Sgt. Walter Banister and Capt. Anthony Sheppard in
recognition of their role in supporting their soldier-parents.
Capt. Sheppard explained, “Children are very silent, and they don’t
express themselves concerning how they miss their loved one.”
He added, “These events help them pull out and show emotion and
energy, and say that they are not alone in this effort.”
is especially difficult for spouses to balance their deep desire to know
about their loved ones in the war with a need to limit the amount of time
spent watching the news.
Also, parents face the difficulty of shielding their children from
the 24-hour news coverage.
don’t watch it constantly, I watch it twice a day—in the morning and in
the evening—because I could sit there and watch the news all day and
it’s the same thing,” said Yu.
when it comes to her children, Yu does not expose them to coverage.
“It’s important for them to know what’s going on, but only to a
certain extent,” Yu explained.
potential impact of this war on the children of the company caused April
Perez to organize the Easter party.
“What happens in this war will make their personalities for the
rest of their life and how they look at the world.
They way we handle it and treat our children and educate them…is
the way tomorrow will be formed,” Perez explained.
She coordinates family support for the entire company, including the
party, and also publishes a newsletter for the families.
to Col. Ann Freed, family groups provide a much needed support for the
families of reservists, who lack the built-in community structures of the
regular army. Freed
said, “These people have to work at being connected and networking because
they live all in different towns.”
Col. Freed praised the efforts of Perez and organizations like
Operation Heartland, who financed the Easter party.
Freed explained that the army provides several resources to the families of
reservists, but that group support is largely organized independently.
Trib Wants You!
you have a friend or relative stationed in the Middle East, let us know.
Fresh Meadows resident Jamie Rivera believes the best thing his son Nicholas ever did was join the Army.
straightened him out,” Jamie told the Tribune. “He really got his
life together. He married his high school sweetheart, Janelle, and he had
his first child, his son Christian Antonio.”
not a day goes by that Jamie doesn’t wish his son was home, and not
overseas fighting the war against Iraq. “I haven’t spoken to him since
he shipped out in January,” Jamie said. “He’s in the Third Infantry,
and who knows when he would be able to call or write . . . I wear his
[uniform] shirt every day, I wear his dog tags. My son’s a hero, but I
want him home.”
was born at New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, and spent most of his
childhood in Arizona with his mother. He did attend Parsons Junior High
School in Flushing, however, and spent plenty of time at Jamie’s house in
22-year-old fan of hip hop and the Yankees currently lives in Georgia with
his wife Janelle, who is also 22 and “perfect for him,” Jamie said. The
two had their first child on Dec. 28, 2002. Rivera shipped out for Kuwait on
said, “My son had been in Kuwait for six months previously. He had been in
Afghanistan and in Pakistan, too. He came home and then he had to go back
out . . . He was supposed to ship out on Jan. 15, but they moved it up a few
days . . . He is a brave boy. I’m proud of him, but I’m scared, too.”
huge flag now hangs in the second floor window of the Rivera home in Fresh
Meadows, while yellow ribbons adorn every tree on the family’s block. A
sign that Jamie made honoring his son will soon be placed outside, and
Jamie’s wife Laura, who called Rivera “a wonderful kid,” said the
school where she works – P.S. 26 in Flushing – has yellow ribbons all
over the halls.
said, “We had the kids write letters and cards to him, and my husband made
a sign that says ‘support our troops’ for the hallway. I think it’s
important that the kids understand how important it is to support the kids
fighting over there.”
also asked that residents of Queens keep Rivera in their prayers. She said,
“Prayers for Nicholas. Prayers that he comes home to his son and his wife
and to his family. That’s what he needs now.”
Family Awaits Their Hero’s Return
There is only one way to describe the relationship that Flushing native Donna Quintana and her husband Marine Lance Corporal Pedro Quintana have – it’s a fairy tale.
two met in upstate New York when they were enrolled in the Challenge
Program, a military-based educational program geared towards getting
students their GEDs. The two became fast friends, and Donna told the Tribune,
“Everybody kept telling me, ‘You’re in love with him, you’re in love
with him.’ I said, ‘No, no I’m not.’ They knew better than me.”
Pedro asked Donna to the Marine Corps Ball in Las Vegas, she said yes, and
said, “When I got off the plane and saw him, I knew that I was going to
marry him. I stayed something like five extra days to be with him, and I
knew I would be his wife.”
two were married in December of 2001, only three months after they went to
the ball together. Donna said, “I knew he was being shipped to Okinawa in
January, and I couldn’t let him leave without knowing that I was his
left in January for Japan, returned after several months, and now is gone
again, overseas fighting the war in Iraq. He did return for a few months,
and the couple is expecting its first child in June – a girl to be named
the Quintanas – who are both 21 – currently live in California, where
Pedro is stationed, Donna is staying with her family in Flushing until the
baby is born. She said, “My father is an ex-Marine. I’ve never heard him
say that he wants someone out of the Marines, but he keeps saying he just
wants him out of there and safe.”
said she’s “a very lucky girl” because Pedro has already called her
three times – he was able to “harass” a reporter into letting him
borrow his cell phone. She said, “He called me, and he seems to be in good
spirits. He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to get home. He said
he’s fine, and he said, ‘I’m not worried. I don’t know why you’re
said Pedro loves music and loves football, but most of all loves to rent
Blockbuster movies and relax at home with his wife. She said, “We’re at
the point in our relationship where if we’re together, we don’t care
what we’re doing. We like to stay in and be together.”
sister Jennifer Hendershot said the couple is “perfect for each other,”
and said, “You
want to hear amazing? They share the same birthday. They were both born on
Oct. 20, 1981.”
laughed and said, “When he told me that, I didn’t believe him. I made
him show his ID.”