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More Ohio soldiers deploy to Middle East

Sgt. Matthew Kaufman volunteered to deploy to Kuwait, even with his first child on the way.

Already a veteran of the Iraq War as a scout sniper, the Lebanon resident had heard he might deploy next to Afghanistan — but with his son due in September, Kuwait sounded like the better option.

Kaufman, 29, was among 76 more soldiers who deployed Thursday from Springfield with the Ohio Army National Guard’s 371st Sustainment Brigade.

“I’d rather be in Kuwait than someplace else,” said Kaufman, who’s admittedly still unsure what his job will be when he gets to Kuwait, as there’s not much need for scouts.

With the motto “Sustain the warrior, sustain the fight,” the Springfield-based 371st could have an array of duties throughout the Middle East — from running warehouses and handling mail to even planning USO shows.

Initially, commanders decided they needed 200 soldiers from the local brigade to support Operation Enduring Freedom. That need then increased.

The first group of 200 soldiers from the 371st already headed overseas. State Guard officials saw them off in a call-to-duty ceremony in April at Wittenberg University’s HPER Center.

The extra contingent of 76 — many of whom, like Kaufman, are from other Guard units in the state — will follow as soon as they undergo training at Fort Hood in Texas. They were the recipients Thursday of a more intimate farewell at Southgate Baptist Church attended by family, friends and dignitaries.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this, but I always get goosebumps when that Army song starts and the soldiers march in,” said Maj. Gen. Deborah A. Ashenhurst, adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard.

In the 12 years since the Global War on Terror began, more than 21,000 Ohio National Guard soldiers and airmen have deployed to 36 countries.

Kaufman is unsure if he can come home temporarily to experience the birth of his son, Bayne Alexander. The total group of 276 will return to the U.S. next spring.

“They’re going to try to get him back,” said his wife, Jessica Kaufman. “They’re really great when it comes to family.”

If he can’t, she understands. At the very least, they said, the money he’ll make from being on active duty will allow her to stay home with the baby.

“This is what he does,” she said. “He loves his country and that’s what he fights for.

“It’s just something you learn to live with and you create a life around it,” she added. “He’ll be back before Bayne even realizes it.”

Spc. Joshua Patch, 26, of Akron, will experience his first deployment since joining the Guard four years ago. He and his wife, Antoinette, have a 1-year-old daughter.

Antoinette Patch fears that the nights are going to be rough without him.

“I’ve never been away from them for more than two weeks at a time,” Joshua Patch said. “But, I’m doing my duty.”

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