Families in Ashland say goodbye to soldiers deployed to Iraq

ASHLAND -- The armory in Ashland filled up Monday with the happy noise of families gathering for a nice lunch and bonding. What you didn't see and hear as clearly was the building anxiety. They were enjoying their last few hours together as famil...

ASHLAND -- The armory in Ashland filled up Monday with the happy noise of families gathering for a nice lunch and bonding.

What you didn't see and hear as clearly was the building anxiety. They were enjoying their last few hours together as families before the 40 soldiers head off for a war zone.

"It's going to be a tough year being a single mom with three kids and working full time," said Kristin Frane, wife of Spc. Chad Frane.

The soldiers of the 829th Vertical Engineering Company will be guarding detainees in prisons in Iraq. Capt. Shannon Kilcoyne, commander of the 829th, admits it isn't the assignment they were hoping for as engineers.

"We unfortunately don't have an engineer mission. We are hoping to be allowed to bring some of our engineering and construction tools so that we can perform our duties while over there and improve the standard of living while we're at it," Kilcoyne said.


About 45 percent of the unit has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan at least once already, which takes away the fear of the unknown for the soldiers.

Monday's ceremony was an effort to take away some of the fear for the families they'll leave behind.

"Families and friends, your soldier is in very good hands," Kilcoyne told the crowd.

The unit is deploying with better equipment, better vehicles, new uniforms and, importantly, new weapons that are lighter but more effective, according to company leaders.

The soldiers will join dozens of others from Chippewa Falls and Richland Center for a total deployment of 130 soldiers of the 829th. They're joining a total deployment of about 3,200 soldiers of the 32nd Infantry Brigade and other augmenting units such as the 829th. They'll head to Texas first for 60 days of training and then it's on to Iraq.

As the afternoon began to wind down, the reality set in, visible in the face Chad and Kristin Frane's young son.

"Definitely very, very sad and especially for my children," Kristin Frane said. "My 10-year-old is having a hard time with it, but we're trying to be positive, and we're proud of him."

Chad Frane reassured his son.


"I know I will be coming home and, speaking on behalf of everybody else, we'll all be coming home," he said.

Gov. Jim Doyle will be on hand today in Madison for the send-off of the 32nd Infantry Brigade and augmenting units.

Authorities have identified the body of an elderly woman who is the third person to die of apparent cold exposure in the Hayward area this winter.

"It's quite unusual," said Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle of Sawyer County. "We've had people die of exposure in the past, but never to this extent."

In the case of Kathryn Roberts, 84, of Hayward, deputies believe confusion played a part. A resident found Roberts' body outside her car on a long private driveway about 4 p.m. Saturday. Roberts' sedan had become stuck in the snow. She last was seen late Wednesday afternoon when she left a friend's house near dusk, Zeigle said.

On her way home, Roberts apparently became confused. About a mile from her friend's house, she took a wrong turn down the private driveway that led to two unoccupied cottages. She became stuck between the cottages and could not free herself as temperatures dipped to the mid-20s, he said.

She was reported missing Thursday after a neighbor noticed her garage was open and empty all day.

"From our investigation, we determined that because of her age, she was becoming more and more confused," Zeigle said. "She had been to a doctor because her confusion appeared to be escalating."


She unsuccessfully tried to rock the car back and forth to free it, he said.

In the township of Bass Lake, where she was found, many of the cottages are owned by nonresidents who visit them only occasionally in winter.

"People are always advised to have a survival kit in their car if they become stranded in winter," Zeigle said. "But in this case, I don't know if it would have helped."

Roberts was declared dead at the scene. The exact time of death isn't known and no autopsy is planned to determine it.

Her disappearance came a few days after 47-year-old Frank E. Crone of rural Hayward was found dead from apparent exposure in a field near Round Lake on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation. And on Jan. 13, the body of Timothy Brueggeman, 51, of Hayward, was found frozen to death about 200 feet from his home after an apparent sleepwalking incident.

Besides the Hayward exposure deaths, on Jan. 25 in Duluth, Scott Anthony Miner, 22, was found frozen in a parking lot near the Copasetic Lounge on Central Entrance. And the next day 70-year-old Carl Andrew Bye Jr. was found dead outside his apartment building in Hibbing.

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