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Station: Squad leader with the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry.
His story: "My military career started when I joined the high school ROTC program when I was living in North Carolina. After I had been in the program awhile, I went to my buddies and said "I'll go down to National Guard recruiter if you will." We all went down and joined. That was in 1978.
"Shortly after high school, my uncle, who was living in Juneau called and asked me if I wanted to come up and I did. I fell in love with the place and stayed and transferred to the Alaska Guard 1980. I stayed in the Guard until 1990 when I left because I felt I needed to spend more time with my girlfriend.
"In October of 2004 I learned that Alpha Company was being mobilized for Iraq. Alpha Company was the company I had served in back in 1990 and there were a handful of guys that I new that were still in the unit. We froze our butts off together, got beat up together and I felt I belonged with them. So I came back in hoping I could make the mobilization but it didn't work out. They had already cut the orders, I was too late.
"When I was mobilized this summer my mom was kind of shocked at first, but just before we headed out she told me she was really proud of me. She said she was really happy that I was following my heart, that I was going out to help other people. And that is what this is all about.
"Dad is not really for it. He was pretty upset, and worried that something could happen to me. He really doesn't want to see me go over there.
"For my wife it has been pretty unsettling. We had only been married a month when I left. Being taken away from her that soon, it has not been easy on her.
"Our marriage was one of those spontaneous things that popped up out of the blue. I took off to the store one day to pick up some groceries and the next thing I knew I was browsing by the jewelry store, then I had an engagement ring in my pocket, and then I was at the florist. The next thing I am knocking on my front door and I am proposing to her as she opens the door. She was ecstatic, she was surprised. She was hoping I would ask to marry her but she wasn't expecting it until after I got back from Iraq.
"What do I miss the most? Cold water (laughs). It's very hot here in Mississippi. Naturally you're going to miss your wife and but even though she is not here she is always beside me, always close to my heart. What has been really neat is talking to my step daughter. She was telling me about her wiggly tooth. That's pretty cool.
"I work for Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation as a maintenance mechanic and it's definitely a challenge. One day I might do sheet rock repair, the next day it might be plumbing, then electrical or heating. It's never the same. The people I work with are really good people. They have offered a lot of moral support over the phone and through email. I am fortunate and grateful for all the support I am receiving."
Soldiers Stories is a monthly feature on the Neighbors page and is in collaboration with Staff Sgt. Mac Metcalfe, Public Affairs NCO, 3rd Battalion, Alaska Army National Guard in Camp Shelby, Miss. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.