Last Friday, Feb. 23, Paul Groteluschen, pharmacist at Story Medical Center in Nevada, left on a one-year mission with the National Guard.

Groteluschen, 52, who has been with the medical center pharmacy for 20 years — starting out in the basement of the old hospital building on Sixth Street in January of 1998 — will be heading to Kosovo, his first deployment in the over 32 years that he’s served in the National Guard. He’s been all over the state to help during those years with floods and other tragedies, but until now, he’s never been deployed out of the country. He admitted last week, just a couple days before his departure, that he was having a “mixture” of emotions.

“It’s kind of exciting to go somewhere new, but I get apprehensive about leaving my wife and kids.”

Groteluschen and his wife, Lori, a nurse, who works for Medtronic, live in Urbandale with their two sons, Hunter, 15, and Peyton, 13, both students in the West Des Moines Valley School District.

Groteluschen is also a Scout master in Clive, so he leaves that unit as well with his departure, and said the troop has already had people step up to help cover while he’s away.

His family, he feels, will have lots of support. Between their Scout friends, friends from the boys’ school, his brother who lives in Urbandale and his incredible “extended family” at Story Medical, he said he was confident everything will be fine. Early last week, in fact, Groteluschen was overwhelmed by the incredible send-off parties and ceremonies that had been held for him at the hospital, by his Scouts and at the National Guard. It was “overwhelming,” he said, “but it makes you feel good because you see support for your family; it would be really tough to go … if you didn’t know someone was there for them.”

While much of his work in Kosovo is not allowed to be discussed publicly, Groteluschen said is he going to be an advisor for the Kosovo Security Force. “Iowa is a state partner for the country of Kosovo, and one mission is that we provide advisors, through NATO, to them… I’ll actually be serving as a NATO officer,” he said, and he’ll be with a team of four from Iowa. One of the others, Jamie Dailey, is from Story County, a Huxley resident. “He leaves in April,” Groteluschen said. He got to know the other three team members better last month when they went to Germany for a week-long training course to prepare for their deployment.

As for the hospital, his job will be in sure hands while he’s away, as his boss from Koerner-Whipple Pharmacies, in Hampton, will cover.

Last Friday, Groteluschen was on his way to the Army’s Fort Bliss in Texas to go through all the check-out procedures.

He admits he could have retired from the Guard years ago, but he loves being in it. “The people in the Guard are some of the most patriotic… they’re just great people. They have the same types of beliefs and care about their country like I do. I’m not quitting (the Guard) until they kick me out.”

And when he comes back to Iowa, he’ll be glad for his return to Story Medical Center, a place that has people who are “like family” to him. A native of Audubon, he finds the people at Story Medical take him back to his roots. “I grew up in a small town, and it’s the family atmosphere here at Story Medical that I like.”