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Guardsman's family plans second holiday for his January return

CENTRAL POINT ' Colette Pruitt and her children will enjoy two Christmases this season.

The first will be today, when she and Danielle, 11, and Terrance, 8, have a traditional Christmas, including gift-giving, dinner and visiting with relatives.

The other ' the one they are really looking forward to ' will be at the end of next month. That's when husband and father Bob Pruitt comes home from a military assignment overseas.

Sgt. 1st Class Pruitt is among more than 500 Southern Oregon citizen soldiers in the 186th Infantry Battalion of the Oregon Army National Guard on a six-month deployment to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The peacekeeping mission is scheduled to end late in January.

We're leaving our Christmas tree up until dad comes home, Colette Pruitt said. He wanted to be able to open presents with the kids.

Since the Sinai is about 10 hours ahead of Central Point, he probably already has opened the package of goodies and stuffed stocking his family sent him shortly after Thanksgiving.

He'll have plenty of gifts when he returns, his wife said.

This has been so hard for all of us, him being away, she said. We miss him horribly. I can't wait for him to come home.

We've been together 14 years and we've never been apart this long, she added. It makes you realize how much family really means.

The unit, with headquarters at the Ashland Armory, was deployed to the Sinai in July after two months of advanced training at Fort Carson, Colo.

They are participating in the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping operation, part of the Camp David Accords hammered out in 1979 by then-President Jimmy Carter and signed by Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

The Guard represents a broad spectrum of Oregonians, attorneys to college students. Some are former military personnel who have been deployed before; others marched away from home for the first time.

An electrician by training, Bob Pruitt was an Air Force veteran before he joined the Guard more than a decade ago.

. . . the Guard has paid me a lot of money over the years to train me, said the platoon sergeant in an interview before his deployment. Now it's time to do what they trained me for. It's my duty.

That sense of duty is shared by his family.

We knew something like this could happen when he went in the Guard, Colette Pruitt said of the unit being activated. If something happened, we knew that was part of his job.

The kids know that dad is doing something important, she added. When they look back on this, they'll know their dad served his country when he was needed. We're extremely proud of him.

The family, which moved into a new home a few days before the sergeant left, keeps in touch via e-mail and regular letters.

We try to keep dad informed, she said. We try to write him every other day. He's able to call me about once every six weeks. They keep him pretty busy.

Support from both her family and in-laws who live in the area has helped ease her husband's absence, she said.

The tree with the presents underneath will serve to remind them of his homecoming next month, she added.

Its been a long haul but we're making it, she said, then reiterated, We'll just be so glad when he's back home with us.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at