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RESERVISTS PREPARED TO LEAVE DAY-TO-DAY LIVES, FAMILIES BEHIND

Everyday people -- a single mom, a postal worker, a nurse, an executive officer for a medical company -- are wearing the uniform of the Air Force.

They gathered this week in the Family Readiness Center at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base, waiting to be called to active duty and possibly put their lives on the line.

President Bush already has called up more than 10,000 members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard to help fight the war on terrorism. So far, no reservists from the Niagara base's 914th Airlift Wing, 107th Air Refueling Wing or the Army's 865th Combat Support Hospital have been called to active duty, said Neil E. Nolf, the public information officer.

But that could change at any moment, and more than 2,000 reservists at the base here are ready to be deployed.

"We've had a lot of support from employers and families," said Col. Wade Farris, commander of the 914th Airlift Wing. "This is only a part-time job for these people, albeit a very important part-time job. And at this time, we're asking them to put us first."

Full-time reservist Laura Coseglia, whose father was the flight surgeon at the Niagara base and who has several children in the armed forces, is in charge of family readiness.

"Our families have prepared themselves for deployment," she said, mentioning a range of necessary arrangements from routine household affairs to making wills.

"My wife and I went over a list of things we had to do," said Paul, who is married with two sons, ages 8 and 17. "I told them not to get too excited, that I have to do this."

Nolf asked that the last names of the reservists not be used to protect their safety and especially the safety of the families they will leave behind.

Many reservists will be saying goodbye to children if called to active duty.

"I worry about the family I'm leaving behind," said Patty of Clarence, a single mother with three children, ages 10, 15 and 17. "My 10-year-old is very worried."

A flight nurse with the 914th, Patty was pregnant with 10-year-old Ted when the Persian Gulf War broke out in 1991; otherwise she would have been activated.

"My 15-year-old, Katie, knows the seriousness of it all and worries the most. She says, 'I don't want you to go.' But I'm very patriotic, and I try to teach them how important it is to help fight this war," Patty said.

Mark, an American Airlines pilot who lives in Williamsville with his wife, Nancy, and two children, was closer to the Sept. 11 terrorists than he realized.

After a flight from Chicago, he landed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., early that Tuesday morning. He went to a hotel and was asleep when his wife called him soon after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"I ran outside and looked across the Potomac and saw the Pentagon in flames," he said. "All planes were grounded by that time, but I called my unit, the 914th, and told them that if they need me I'll drive home."

"We need him now," said Farris.

Dave and Jackie celebrated their first wedding anniversary Sept. 16. He is the executive officer of a medical company in Lockport and a major in the 914th with service in the Gulf War. They have four children from previous marriages, ranging in age from 13 to 19.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan is with the Airborne, based in North Carolina. It is possible both father and son might be called to active duty overseas.

"I'll be here waiting for them and holding down the fort," said Jackie.

e-mail: bmichelmore@buffnews.com

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