Friends say farewell, wish safe return for National Guard sergeant

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Sunday July 18, 2010

DALTON -- Mike Cachat is going to war.

But about 200 of his closest friends wanted to say goodbye and wish him a safe return. They needed to have a get-together.

So they threw him a going away party -- more of a picnic really -- at the American Legion field on Saturday.

With tents providing shelter from the sun and the raging 90-degree heat, grills cooking dogs and burgers, kids taking turns in the dunking tank, Cachat, 37, made the rounds.

Cachat seemed relaxed and in good spirits as he chatted with old friends, held hands with his wife, Tammy, and shared moments with his five children and laughs with his fellow Legion Riders.

On July 31, a day before the American Legion Riders' fun ride, he is set to leave with his Army National Guard battalion for at least a year-long tour in Afghanistan.

The war environment in Afghanistan is escalating. It is among the longest-running conflicts in the nation's history, and U.S. troops have been increased recently to handle a stubborn and resourceful insurgency based in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.

Cachat knows the situation over there is pretty risky. He is a sergeant in the infantry, Bravo Company 1-181. This will be his first overseas deployment, but that's what he was shooting for when he rejoined the military. Altogether he's spent 14 years in the service off and on, he said.

"I'm pretty confident in my training and what I'm going to be doing," Cachat said. "But I'm going to miss my family -- that's the hardest part."

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The Cachats have five kids -- four boys and one girl ranging from 3 to 16 years old. The family lives in Hinsdale.

For his day job he works as a network technician for Richmond Telephone. He also is president of the American Legion Riders in Dalton, a role that lets him help out military veterans whenever he can.

He ended up back in the military after longtime Army buddies kept harping on him to rejoin and help the cause in Afghanistan.

"They kept calling and saying they really need me," he said. "I'd hate to see something happen to a good buddy when I could've done something about it. So here I am. But I believe in it -- like I have ever since 9/11."

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At his farewell party, kids lined up at the dunking tank to either be the dunkee or the dunker. They used footballs, a volleyball, tennis balls and their hands to hit the dunker target. Cachat used a low-traffic minute to let his young daughter cool off in the water of the dunking tank.

His mom, Cherrie Cachat, watched from the shade of a nearby tree.

"I'm very proud of him," she said. "But it's going to be hard on his wife and kids. And it's going to be hard on him being away from them."

She pointed to the crowd and said that the fact that so many people came out to wish her son well is a good indication of the wide-spread respect he has earned.

"While he's gone, we're going to do everything we can to keep things going over here so he doesn't have to worry about it while he's over there," she said.

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Tammy Cachat alternated between chatting with friends and handling queries from the kids.

"It's not the most fun thing on earth having your husband going to war for a year, but you deal with it," she said. "It's what we signed up for."

She added that the kids were handling the prospect pretty well.

"They're not happy he's going to be gone, but the older boys are being really good about it so far," Tammy Cachat said. "We'll see how it goes when he's gone."

Cherrie Cachat noted that friends and neighbors are organizing some help for the family for things like baby sitting, lawn mowing or wood chopping -- things that Mike Cachat usually does.

As the afternoon wore on, the temperature rose. The dunk tank got a bit more popular. And Sgt. Cachat could be seen laughing with friends or chatting with his children.

He doesn't like being the focus of attention, he pointed out, but acknowledged that it was good to see so many friends in one place.

"There are people here I haven't seen in years," he said. "So I'm going to have a few beers and enjoy the company."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6241.


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