Far From Home
Editor’s Note: The series “Far From Home” is written by local resident Doug LaFoille. It began in 2011, when his daughter, Danielle LaFoille was deployed to Afghanistan. He now details the Army career of his son, Jeremy, who is also stationed in Afghanistan.
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Friday, March 1 should have been like any other Friday, but it wasn’t. Actually, this Friday seemed like one long continuation of the week. The thoughts and fears were endless and at times very confusing. Again I find myself wondering why I am here and why this is happening.
A young 21-year-old U.S. Army Engineer is preparing to leave for a foreign country to fight this horrible war and Jean, his mom, Jacob, his brother, and Danielle, his sister, will be left behind to wonder when he will be home. The twist – this young soldier has a wife and two daughters, four and five.
Jacob and I help Jeremy pack his ruck and his duffle. We laugh as we try to get everything packed in these small bags. Jeremy wonders if he can get a couple more cans of chew in any of the bags, as he knows he doesn’t have enough to last even a month. The boys play the Play Station 3 as we sit in the living room. The rest of us make small conversation. We talk of trying to get some sleep, knowing that 4 a.m. is an early wake up, but to no avail, sleep never comes.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my daughter Danielle, now a non-commissioned officer in the same Army as my son Jeremy. A short note about Danielle, who, with almost seven years in, has received the rank of sergeant. She received a Combat Medic’s Badge, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a medic, during her tour at Forward Observation Base Blessing. Along with numerous other medals, awards and accommodations, she continues to advance in her military career and, recently, her name was submitted to receive the Meritorious Service Medal, which, for someone of her youth and time in, is extraordinary. She is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston in Texas at Brooke Army Medical Center and works with Wounded Warriors, many of which are young men and women who have suffered during this war.
She got engaged on Valentine’s Day and is very excited about her new life with her fiancé. I can’t put into words her fears for her brother –about where he’s going and what he will see.
Outside, Danielle, Jeremy and I, find ourselves sitting on the front porch at 1:30 a.m. knowing that in just a matter of hours, he will be boarding a bus to leave. The temperature is 36 degrees, it’s a clear night; the stars are out. We see a shooting star – this can only be interpreted as a good sign. At Jeremy’s house, the rest of the family is trying to sleep. The conversation is light, but at times very uneasy. Talking to your son about preparing to die, how can you ever describe this? But as usual, with three veterans, we make light of it and move on to the mission at hand, “the departure”.
At 3:30 a.m., all hell breaks loose. Jeremy’s battle buddy calls, he needs a ride with his gear over to the bag drop location. Jeremy’s heading out the door with his 70 pound ruck sack, 70 pound duffle bag and assault pack to help his buddy get to the bag drop. His beautiful wife, Amanda, is with him as they head to Fort Hood.
Months to weeks, days to hours, and now seconds – the speed in which this time has passed is scary, and I can only pray that the time he is out of country and fighting this war goes by as fast.
Twenty minutes later, Amanda returns. She, the girls and I head back to Fort Hood to be with Jeremy. It’s cold – I keep reminding myself I’m in Texas, and wonder where the heat is. We get fast food for the girls this morning, head through the drive thru line, then over to the main gate at Fort Hood. We go by the ruck and duffle bag drop location; the unit is now drawing weapons so we wait in the parking lot. It’s nothing special, just a side parking lot outside the armory.
It’s still pitch black out, the girls are a little restless, but finish their food and put their heads down to sleep. Amanda and I talk about her coming to the U.P., to Manistique possibly, while Jeremy is deployed. Later this morning, while talking with Jeremy before he gets on the bus, he asks me not to bring Amanda and the girls up to Manistique.
When asked why, his answer is no surprise when he says his love of the area and the enjoyment from both friends and attractions is something he wants so desperately to share with his wife and children upon his return. I will honor his wishes, and it looks like we will be going back to Texas to see Amanda and the girls.
From the armory door soldiers start to filter out in small groups with their M4’s (weapons). As wives and families walk with them back to the car, there is an eerie silence that falls over the entire parking lot. The sun’s starting to come up; the red hue against the dark blue is incredible, another good sign, I I hope. We call Jeremy on his cell, ask how long before he gets out to us. Fifteen minutes to a half hour, he’s not sure, but says just wait; like we would go anywhere.
Danielle arrives with the rest of the family and we all wait. As the parking lot is illuminated by the rising sun, we notice a small sports car parked across from the armory in reserved parking for command staff.MOVE ADI guess#4:Layoutmembers1 4/of3/Jeremy’s2013 3:26 company couldn’t sleep the night before as well, as we notice that the car has had all four tires removed and placed under it for a prank. I guess some of the soldiers wanted this commander not to forget about them during their deployment. I sure hope he saw the humor in this as much as the rest of us did; I’m sure he did.
Jeremy finally joins us with his M4 and assault pack, but trying to get the sling for his M4 set up for him is a bugger. We all rush from both vehicles just to stand beside him, to be close and put our hands on him; again, not knowing the next time we will be able to do this.
We all walk to the formation location just outside the barracks and immediately the first sergeant starts forming up the platoons. Jeremy, along with 112 other soldiers, is now in formation. As the first sergeant is delivering last minute orders, family members stand near each other in support of what is about to happen.
I talk with a young mother, who, with her three-year-old daughter, is watching her husband being deployed with Jeremy. She tells me this is his second deployment – the first deployment was when his daughter was three days old. wonder where this frail young 20-year-old gathers her strength; her composure is incredible.
Hours from now, I see her and her daughter again, they’re not doing as well and it’s easy to understand why. God bless her and all the families, the soldiers and the command staff for everything they do.
Stay tuned for Jeremy’s first days in Afghanistan, his experiences coming under fire, losing equipment, andPM unpredictablePage 1 weather.