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National Guard Relief Workers Giving More Than Just Their Time

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ROCKY MOUNT — Rescue workers are the unsung heroes of Hurricane Floyd. Many are not just giving of their time to help flood victims, they are also giving up a paycheck.

Many members of the North Carolina National Guard expect to leave their families and civilian lives behind when they are activated. But our full-time military is downsizing, and the reserves are being called on to fill the gap.

Eleven hundred National Guard soldiers are helping the flood relief effort in the Rocky Mount area. They are handing out water and ice to people who desperately need it.

It is rewarding work, but it can be a financial hardship for soldiers like Spc. Jeff Fields. While he is on Guard duty, he is not getting a paycheck from his civilian job as a mechanic.

"I lose probably $300 a week. I generally work five days a week, but now we're all working seven days a week here," says Fields.

These soldiers are not sure when they will see their families again either. They could be on hurricane duty for 30 days or longer.

Staff Sgt. Bill Lynch has been in the National Guard for 14 years. He says it never gets easier to leave his family behind in Pittsboro.

"You look at the military side of it, I'm excited. This is what we do. And then you look at it as a father and a husband, and you think maybe it's time to hang it up, maybe this is the last one," he says.

That is a choice National Guardsmen will have to confront more often, as they are called up for duty at home and abroad.

"The reserves are getting called up more on duty for state and national missions, for national security missions, because of the downsizing of the active component forces," says Major James Holloway.

Reserve soldiers are serving close to home and around the world. In the past year, some North Carolina Guardsmen returned from the Persian Gulf, others were sent to the Balkans.

Four thousand soldiers, or one-fourth of the state's reserve force, were activated for hurricane duty.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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