THE REV. CLAY Salmela smiles during an annual training session with his unit in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.     submitted photo
THE REV. CLAY Salmela smiles during an annual training session with his unit in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. submitted photo

     HOW DIFFICULT WOULD it be to wrap up your affairs so that you could say “goodbye” to your family for a full year? Your friends? Your full-time job?

     That’s the reality that faces individuals called to active duty from the National Guard.

     Yes, they’re (usually) given many months to prepare. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

     Just ask the Rev. Clay Salmela, pastor of Grace Lutheran in Ripon.

     Like members of Ripon’s Guard unit who have been in Afghanistan for months now had to do last winter, Salmela is preparing to leave Ripon next week for a year’s deployment.

     He’ll be headed with his Madison-based Wisconsin Army National Guard unit to Ukraine, starting with full-time training Monday, Sept. 23.

     This represents the first time in his 18 years of service that Salmela will have been sent abroad — a fact that is equal parts exciting and stressful.

    “With any deployment, it’s a bittersweet reaction. On the one hand, who wants to leave their home and family and congregation for about 11 months?” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s what we trained for, for years. So there is excitement that we’re going to use our training in a real-world situation. There’s a little bit of anxiety; we don’t know for sure what we’re getting into ... Until we get there, we really don’t know.” ...

      To read the entire column, see the Sept. 19, 2019 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.