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A Local Soldier’s Trip to Afghanistan and Back

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The Military View Column by Jerry Hogan.  

How would you like to be a single mother sitting in the living room of your best friend, who just happens to have a son-in-law who is an Army recruiter, who is also there, when a commercial comes on the TV talking about how great the Army is and what opportunities it offers? The son-in-law turns to you and says, “You know, this might be a good thing for you to do. You’re 38 and you can enlist now up to age 42.” Wow!

Next day it’s down to the recruiter’s office where he tells you, “Basic training has really changed and all you have to do is be able to run 2 miles and do 20 pushups and you’ll get through with no problem.” (Not really totally true!). You think about the educational opportunities, the opportunity to serve your country, the ability to earn some extra money by enlisting in the Army Reserves, and you might do like LaJeanna Willard of Rockwall, Texas, did when she enlisted in 2007.

First it was Basic training and then advanced training at Fort Lee, Virginia. From there it was back to Texas where she drilled with the medical company located in Seagoville, Texas, while continuing with her civilian job as a legal assistant in Dallas.

Unfortunately the time here was short and out of the blue LaJeanna and five other members of her unit received orders for Iraq. Arriving at the transportation location for shipment overseas, much to her surprise, her orders were changed and she was identified for duty in Afghanistan.

Arriving there in August of 2008, she quickly found that going as an individual replacement is not nearly as smooth and easy as going with a unit of people whom you have known and trained with. After being assigned to several different jobs where vacancies existed, she eventually ended up at Bagram Air Base which is about 30 miles north of the capitol of Afghanistan, Kabul. Unfortunately she sustained a serious injury to her shoulder and knee and was medevaced to Germany in December and then to Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio in early January of this year. She remains as an outpatient there today.

I asked her what changes in her life happened as a result of her Army service. “Being a single parent, it was extremely difficult to leave my three children. It seemed like I had only been back home a short time before I was called to active duty. If my mother had not lived with me, I am not sure what I would have done. It was hard for me being in Afghanistan however I have the deepest respect for those who are brave enough to volunteer to fight for our freedom and for the freedom of other countries. I am so proud of the men and women who I saw going out on missions every day and then to get up the next day and do it all over again.”

LaJeanna hopes to be discharged from the hospital and medically retired by Christmas so she can return home. When you see her, please tell her how much we appreciate what she has done for all of us.

Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who volunteers to write these articles. He can be reached at jerryhogan@sbcglobal.net or 214-394-4033.

 

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