Local soldiers and families attend departure ceremony in Indianapolis
Several local soldiers deployed to Iraq

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

The new year ushered in a new location for approximately 3400 Indiana guardsmen who were honored at an impressive departure ceremony at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on Wednesday, January 2 before being deployed to Iraq. It was an emotional send off for thousands as they gathered at the dome to savor a few last minutes of memories with loved ones.

Among the sea of uniformed soldiers were three South Ripley graduates - Spc. E4 Zachary Teichman, 18, Pvt. Joshua Cumberworth, 19, and Pvt. Thomas Kimla, 18; Pvt. Nick Johnson, a 2003 graduate of Milan High School, son of Jerry and Brenda Johnson of Milan; and 2007 Batesville High graduate Pvt. James Stratis, son of Chuck and Michele Stratis.

Privates Cumberworth and Kimla have known each other for a long time. “They’ve been friends since they were little,” Kimla’s mother, Connie, noted. When the two were seniors in high school, they both decided they would join the military. Kimla signed up on January 26, 2007, and Cumberworth followed suit the next day.

The two friends trained for one weekend a month until they graduated from high school in May. Then, they went to basic training in July. That training ended in November, according to Kimla, who didn’t worry about being deployed because he was signed up for a “college first” program and knew he wouldn’t have to go for two years. However, his plans would change drastically when he heard that his friend had been called to go. “I decided to put college on hold. I volunteered to go at the same time as Josh,” Kimla told The Versailles Republican. He and Cumberworth are both in the 76th Brigade, 2nd platoon, 2nd squadron.

Kimla said although he’s a Humvee driver, he will also be doing long range combat security and have his turn at being a gunner. He noted that the training was intense and he has achieved his goal of “doing something you can’t do in everyday life.” He said that and college motivated him to join the military.

Cumberworth agreed that gaining funds to go to college was his top reason for joining, but said once he joined, he “really liked it.”

Kimla plans to attend IUPUI pursuing a career in engineering. His parents, Eric and Connie Clippert, and sister, Kyana, reside in Versailles.

Cumberworth says he wants to major in business and will possibly follow the career path of many in his family by being a state police officer.

“I’m really looking forward to going (to Iraq) and coming back home,” Cumberworth said, adding, “I know a lot of people are worried because of the war.”

Cumberworth is the son of Ed and Jodie Cumberworth of Holton and Sharon Cumberworth and John Huffman of Delaware. He has a brother, Joseph, a step-brother, Dickie Jo Smith and step-sister, Katie Messer. He also has a step-niece, Addison Grace.

Another 2007 graduate of South Ripley High School, Spc. Zachary Teichman, joins soldiers getting ready to deploy to Iraq. He joined the National Guard on March 24, 2006, during his junior year and went to basic training between his junior and senior years at South Ripley.

Spc. Teichman is serving in the 76th Brigade in the Alpha Troop 1-152. He is in the Calvary Scouts and will be involved with convoy security.

He noted that gaining college funding was also a reason for signing on with the guard. He does plan to attend college after military life, but wasn’t sure at this point what his chosen career path would be.

About being deployed to Iraq, Teichman noted, “I wanted to go. I wanted to say I did something.” The local soldier joins the others, who all say the hardest part of military life is being away from family and friends.

Teichman is the son of Kelly and Robert Garcia of Versailles and John Teichman of Ft. Wayne. Kelly told The Versailles Republican that she is coping with not only her son being deployed, but the fact that her husband’s unit has been called up as well. “He hasn’t been notified, but could be any day. The hardest part is not knowing,” she noted. Her husband, Robert Garcia, who is a corporal with the Indiana State Police, Versailles Post, is in the National Guard Reserves, and he will have three days to report for active duty once he is called. The Garcias also have a 10-year-old son, Alex, and daughter, Cady, who is six. As the Garcias waited for the ceremony to begin on Wednesday, Robert said he had talked with others from his unit and felt he would be called to go to Iraq. “We’ll probably be right back here in a few weeks,” Kelly said tearfully.

Some soldiers completed post mobilization training just before Christmas at Camp Atterbury where they also had Iraqi language training. The soldiers transitioned from National Guard soldiers to Active Army soldiers with those in charge saying they are ready for the upcoming mobilization.

While the soldiers are trained and ready for their assignment in a foreign country, some loved ones at home struggle with the change. “He’s so young, it doesn’t seem possible,” Saralee Cumberworth of Holton, noted in regard to her grandson, Joshua Cumberworth, leaving. “I’m really not ready for him to go.”

Connie Clippert, mother of Thomas Kimla, said it was hard for her to let go, but she is “so very proud of him.”

When asked to name a favorite teacher or someone from high school that had an impact on their life, Brenda Strimple was the choice from Pvt. Kimla. “I am honored...he’s a good kid,” she noted, when told. Of course, she knew all three of the young men who are being deployed and had this to say, “I hate to see them go. But, I will be keeping them in my thoughts and prayers while they are gone.”
After hearing from several congressman, the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, President of the Indianapolis Colts, Bill Polian, Colonel Courtney P. Carr, Major General R. Martin Umbarger, Governor Mitch Daniels took the podium and congratulated the soldiers, their families, and the Hoosiers who filled the stadium for the event. He presented state flags and coins to the 76th brigade leadership. Just before the final benediction, the military band, Rapid Fire, presented “When I Chose to be a Soldier.”

At the end of the departure ceremony, the soldiers were moved quickly onto waiting buses to take them to Georgia for further training before they are actually deployed overseas.

As the soldiers exited the massive dome filled with family and friends, American pride filled the area with soft cries of loved ones who will only be able to hold their soldier in their heart until they return home.

(Editor’s note): The newspaper is grateful to the families who notified us of this event. We want to honor our local soldiers through articles and photos when they are available. If you know of a deploying soldier, contact our office wburnett@ripleynews.com or call 812-689-6364, ask for Wanda English Burnett.

TOP PHOTO: 2007 South Ripley High School graduates and best friends, Pvt. Joshua Cumberworth, third from right, is pictured above with family members.

BOTTOM PHOTO: Pvt. Thomas Kimla, is pictured below with family members just before the departure ceremony took place at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on Wednesday, January 2. Both soldiers said they are ready for the upcoming challenge, but look forward to coming back home together as well.