Life has been a revolving door lately for Carol McLendon, who watched her 21-year-old daughter leave for the war in Iraq less than two weeks before her 23-year-old daughter returned to Las Vegas after a year in Kuwait supporting the war effort.
"I’m devastated actually," she said Thursday hours before she hugged her older daughter, Sgt. Misty McLendon when she arrived at McCarran International Airport with other Army Reserve soldiers from the 948th Transportation Detachment on a flight from El Paso, Texas.
With open arms and a broad smile on her face, Carol ran to embrace Misty, who walked into the baggage area at 7:15 p.m. with a half dozen other soldiers. Their families cheered.
"It’s surreal. We can’t believe it’s over," Misty said. "I have two more years, and I’m hoping I don’t have to go again."
A tear trickled down her cheek when she spoke about her sister, Spc. D’Ambe McLendon, who is headed to dangerous duty in Iraq.
"I just hope I get to see her," she said.
Carol McLendon said she’s "proud of them but this is really hard. Kuwait was a lot different. Now with Iraq, every day is going to be emotional because I’ll be thinking about what could possibly happen."
Misty wrapped up her second tour in Kuwait as one of about 15 soldiers from the 948th. They supported commanders and a contractor in the war zone using radios and computers to arrange and control transportation movements.
"It was a vital mission but it wasn’t dangerous," she said.
D’Ambe will be driving Humvees for convoys in Iraq in a couple months after training at Camp Shelby, Miss., with another Las Vegas-based Army Reserve unit, the 355th Chemical Company. The company held a deployment ceremony June 23 at Nellis Air Force Base.
"All the young people going over there are not ready for what they’re getting in to," said Carol, a frazzled, stay-at-home mom.
"All the Army training can’t prepare you for a culture where they die senselessly," she said. "D’Ambe was never raised to hate anyone. We are Christians. How do you adapt to hate and how can anyone train you for that?"
Misty joined the Army Reserve before the nation’s wars on terrorism to save money for college. But her attempts to earn degrees at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Phoenix were interrupted by her citizen-soldier obligations. She returned from her first tour in Kuwait in October 2005 then left seven months later for her second tour.
Before her last tour, D’Ambe told Misty she wished she could trade places with her.
"I think it’s harder for me to watch her go over than to go over myself. I don’t want her to go," she said before Misty boarded the plane at McCarran on April 24, 2006.
In a phone call Thursday from Mississippi while Carol and her youngest daughter, Lexee, waited at the airport, D’Ambe said of the task before her: "Somebody has to do the job and I have confidence in my leaders."
Carol McLendon tried to no avail to keep D’Ambe from joining the Army, but when D’Ambe turned 18 she signed up on her own. At the time, the 355th Chemical Company wasn’t expected to be deployed to Iraq, especially as a convoy escort unit. With the demand for Humvee drivers, however, D’Ambe and many of the other chemical specialists in the 355th were retrained.
Carol McLendon said she’s trying to be strong but she’s afraid for D’Ambe’s safety given that roadside bombs are the insurgents’ weapons of choice. Of her five children, three have served or are serving in the military. Her 40-year-old son, Jerome Beck, was in the Navy.
She said she is relying on her religious roots to get through.
"I ask that everybody pray," she said. "Think about the sacrifice, not just of my children but all these soldiers. Treat them with respect."Operation Iraqi FreedomA special package of news updates, local coverage, multimedia and more.