June 2, 2010

Guard troops roll back home for holiday worthy of Kings

— BY ERIC RUSSELL

Bangor Daily News

BREWER — Christine Fairservice and her two children, 7-year-old Michael and 2-year-old Phoebe, said their goodbyes just over two weeks ago. Sure, there was always a slim chance that Christine's husband, Sgt. Jim Fairservice, might be home for the holidays, but the family was prepared for Christmas without him.

Then some holiday benevolence intervened.

With the help of a large donation from Bangor authors Stephen and Tabitha King, Fairservice and other members of Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit of the Maine Army National Guard were able to return to Maine for a brief Christmas break. An overnight, 15-hour bus ride from Camp Atterbury, Ind., ended at the Brewer Armory late Wednesday morning. Another bus carrying soldiers stopped in Portland earlier Wednesday morning.

''We weren't sure until early last week that we would see him,'' Christine Fairservice said inside the armory shortly before the bus arrived. ''It's going to be a good Christmas.''

There was no fanfare, no hero's welcome. Just family members hoping to have a few more days with loved ones before the 172nd is deployed for 12 months to Afghanistan. The unit will return to Indiana on Jan. 1.

Capt. Paul Bosse, commander of Bravo Company, said he thinks the time home will have extended benefits.

''If the guys were back there training, they wouldn't be focused anyway,'' Bosse said by phone late Wednesday from his home in Auburn. He was on the bus that stopped in Portland.

As for the generosity of the Kings, Bosse noted that the story received media attention in Indiana.

''Growing up (in Old Town), I always was amazed by their generosity, but I'm not sure everyone knows,'' Bosse said. ''That's probably the way (the Kings) want it, too, which I can respect.''

Angela Baker, who is nine months' pregnant, said the surprise trip home is the best gift she could hope for. It means her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Baker, will likely be present for the birth of their son.

Baker, of Pittsfield, said she understands what her husband is going through more than most. She also is a soldier and recently completed her own deployment to Iraq.

This is the first deployment for the Fairservice family of Gardiner. Christine Fairservice said she's taking it surprisingly well.

''Someone needs to do what he does,'' she explained, glancing at her phone, waiting for her husband to call and say when he'd arrive. ''I'm proud that he wants to.''

The infantry unit left Maine on Dec. 8 for Indiana. The plan was to train there for about a month, then deploy overseas. The soldiers had time off around the holidays, but no way to get home. That's where the Kings came in with a Christmas present that benefited dozens of families.

''The kids were ready to give up all their presents to have him home,'' Christine Fairservice said.

The Maine Army National Guard attempts to bring troops home whenever possible. Operation Community Support, a Bangor-based military assistance nonprofit, solicited the Kings for a donation. The rest came from the Guard's Family Assistance Center.

 

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