Family carries on as soldier deploys to Iraq

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Singling out her husband from the balcony above the RCA Hoosier Dome floor where 3400 soldiers were dressed exactly alike, was easy for Melissa Gotts. “Look at the way he walks,” she noted to their daughter, Michaela. That was the only thing that was easy about the day last week when they said goodbye to a husband, father, and friend for a year as he made his departure for Iraq.

SFC David R. Gotts is not new to the Indiana National Guard. He joined when he was just a senior in high school in 1986. Upon graduation from South Ripley Jr. Sr. High School in 1987 he began basic training and has never looked back. He and Melissa (Baugh) got together in 1989, and were married in 1991. She noted that she knew he loved the military and accepted that. “It’s always just been a way of life for us,” she told The Versailles Republican this week. Both are former Ripley County residents.

Their daughter has been raised knowing her dad goes to the “guard” on some weekends, a couple of weeks in the summer, and had an extended duty (three years active) at Camp Atterbury recently when many in his unit from Madison were deployed to Iraq. He trained soldiers on various weaponry. “But, it wasn’t like we couldn’t see him sometimes,” Melissa noted. “This will be a lot different,” she noted, saying the full impact probably hasn’t hit home just yet. She does know that they are already feeling the pain of not being able to celebrate the January and February birthdays together.

As for how Michaela feels, her mother said she’s tough, but after all, her dad’s “her hero, best friend, someone she plays football with”. It will be tough for the gutsy sixth grader. Her mother says she attends Sand Creek Elementary School in North Vernon where her teacher has people in the military and is maybe more understanding than some.

Now knowing she’ll be dad and mom both for their daughter doesn’t overwhelm Melissa, who says she is so proud of her husband that this is the least she can do. She noted that he has a shirt that explains what a guardsman is. Words like: loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, honor, integrity, personal courage, are words she said describes her husband and “a lot of the guys I know in the guard.” She says soldiers serving in the National Guard are a close knit group that “watch each other’s backs and when the going gets tough, they (guards) get going.”

Melissa backs her husband’s decision to remain in the National Guard even when he could have retired. She said it was a mutual decision. “I knew when I met him what he liked to do and I wouldn’t try to change that,” she said.

The Gotts family now live in rural North Vernon where Melissa and Michaela will keep the home fires burning until their soldier is safely home. “We have a lot of support from area families who are facing the same situation,” Melissa stated. She is thankful for her husband’s employer, Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, who is carrying the family’s insurance while he’s gone. “The Toyota family has backed us 110%” she noted, adding, “we’re very fortunate.” Her husband has been with the Walesboro company for 17 years where he is a team leader in machining.

Melissa said the send off ceremony in Indianapolis was impressive, maybe a little long, but she truly appreciated the Patriot Guard Riders who took their stand for patriotism. “It meant the most to me to know those guys would be there if needed.” She noted that a friend who had been to Iraq on a couple tours said the last deployment was “fairly quiet”. She is hoping that will be the case for her husband’s group who will be “running convoys.” She knows the seriousness of war and will be like every other soldier’s wife, glad when he comes back home. She noted that there are others from the immediate area who have been deployed, including Bill Adams and Jason Schreiner.

(Editor’s note: If you know of a soldier from Ripley County who has recently been deployed to Iraq, you are welcome to contact our paper with information and a photo to share with our readers at or call 812-689-6364.)

It was a father-daughter moment for SFC David Gotts and Michaela, as they sat in the stands just before the departure ceremony began last week in Indianapolis