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Children feel the pain as dads depart for Afghan mission

Bella Stobert sent her dad off to war Saturday.

Logan Toleman did, too.

So did Allie and Hunter Clipper.

"I'll miss me and him just messing around outside," said Hunter, 11, "wrestling and stuff."

Fifty-eight members of the 98th Division of the Army Reserve gathered Saturday for a ceremony in the Army Reserve Center on North Forest Road in Amherst, where they said good-bye to their families.

The reservists will leave today for 10 weeks of training at Fort Dix, N.J., before being deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. Another 47 will leave in two weeks.

For many of them, it will be their second time deployed overseas in support of the war on terrorism. For a few, it's their third.

Hunter's dad, Richard Clipper, of Middleton, Mich., served in Iraq in 2008-09.

"I know we're going to get through it, but it's going to be hard," Clipper's wife, April, said, wiping away tears. "I don't want him to go, but I know he has to."

Their deployment is not expected to be a combat mission, although the enemy gets a vote on that, said Col. Paul Wegman, of Rochester.

Instead, Wegman said, the unit -- two-thirds of whom are from outside Western New York -- will be part of a special task force mobilized to train and mentor officers in the fledgling Afghan National Army.

The 58 reservists were in their fatigues Saturday and stood in neat rows of four with their hands clasped behind their backs, as commanders said a few words.

Brig. Gen. Dwayne Edwards also addressed family members, acknowledging that they faced anxious nights, but assuring them that their loved ones will be well-trained and well-equipped.

"On behalf of the entire Army leadership, thank you for your sacrifice," Edwards told the family members. "They are absolutely necessary. They are absolutely needed."

Logan Toleman and his sister, Isabella, were too young to remember when their dad, Michael, last served in Afghanistan. Now, Logan is 6 and Isabella, 4.

"Last time they didn't understand," said their mother, Rebecca Toleman, who lives outside Saratoga. "This time it's so much more real to them, which makes it more emotional for me."

"I try to instill in them to be proud of their dad," she added, "but they want him here."

This is the first deployment experience for Bella Stobert, 7, and her two little sisters.

Their father, Nate, a state trooper from West Seneca, is excited about his mission, but not thrilled about leaving his wife, Julia, and young family.

"That's the hard part. We have a baby due in May and three already," Stobert said. "I'm sure the deployment will be a lot harder on her than it will be on me."

"I think it will be harder on him," his wife replied. "I wouldn't want to be in his shoes."

Daughters Clara, 3, and Chrissy, 1, don't understand what's happening, but Bella has been a bit sad, Julia Stobert said.

"But it will be OK. It will be over before you know it," Julia Stobert added. "I'm proud of him."

As they said their good-byes, the Clipper family snapped some photos.

When asked what she'll miss most while her dad is away, Allie Clipper, 9, thought for a few seconds.

"His hugs," she said, "and him squeezing me so hard I can't even breathe."

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com