Wednesday, January 19, 2011

He's Coming Home

… from Afghanistan!!!
My baby brother (and by baby, I mean 21 years old) has been serving our country in Afghanistan since April 1, 2010 and he is FINALLY coming HOME! Our family heard from him over the weekend and he requested that no more care packages be sent his way because they will be leaving mid/late February and (a) they won’t arrive before they leave or (b) he won’t have enough room to bring anything home in his one duffel bag (he is already beginning to ship things back to the States). I have just one word to describe how excited I am that they’re mission is complete and they will be coming back a month early (his orders were to deploy for “12 months or until mission complete”)…
Here is the handsome Soldier when he first enlisted almost 2 years ago.

PV2 John (Jack) Fagan
Jackson (as I’ve called him since he was a toddler) enlisted in the US Army in February of 2009. He had his choice of MOS (Military Occupation Specialty – basically, his “job”; this is what the Army calls your job when you enlist and there are nearly 200 to choose from) and chose the oldest and largest branch in the US Army, Field 11 – Infantry. Within each MOS, there are fields and branches and Jack chose branch 11B – Infantryman (Or rather, his superiors chose him for that position. You can’t enlist with a guarantee of MOS 11B; you go through training and are selected based on your performance.) The basic role of the Infantryman is to be the main land combat force.  So, just as it sounds, Jack is in combat on a daily basis.
After completing BCT (Basic Combat Training) and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in May 2009, he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division and stationed at Fort Drum in upstate New York. After more training at Ft Drum, Jack found out he was deploying to Kunduz, Afghanistan on April 1, 2010. He has been there ever since, serving his country as a Gunner in the 1st Brigade, 87th Infantry Division, Charlie Company, 2nd Platoon. He either sits on top of his Humvee in a turret or inside his Humvee with a remote control (I’m sure there’s a fancier name than that, but it basically is a remote control that he can use to stay inside the vehicle but still shoot his weapon. I think it’s the best invention EVER!) shooting his 50 caliber machine gun that looks something like this. 
Here he is after graduating from BCT & AIT at Fort Benning in Georgia and then with our proud parents.

Our family could not be more excited or relieved that he is getting out of that living hell. No more live combat (being shot at or having to shoot at). No more week or month long missions (leaving the base as a Platoon and living on their own as you travel around in the hottest and coldest days you can imagine - right now the temperatures are bitterly cold and his Platoon sleeps outside on the ground for 5-10 days at a time!!!). No more referring to “home” as the FOB (Foreign Operations Base). No more MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat - after about a month in Afghanistan Jack said he would rather not eat at all than eat another MRE. Yes, they’re that bad.). No more attempts to stay in contact with our family from half way around the world. No more urgency to send our family an email or text message to relay his safety after a media-worthy event (A few weeks ago there was a huge attacked on the Aghani Army Training Base. A few Taliban went into Kunduz – where Jack is stationed –, killed the Afghani police officers on guard, blew themselves up in an attempt to take out as many members of the Afghani Army as possible, and proceeded to fight the US troops/Afghani Police/Afghani Army. Jack’s Platoon was in combat for over  five hours and in this time his weapon jammed twice. Remember how I told you he could control it by remote? Well, luckily he was doing that on this particular day, but when his gun jams, he has to climb on top of the Humvee to un-jam it. My heart still races just thinking about  it. Anyway, after they were safely back on the FOB, Jack sent my mom a text saying something along the lines of: "when you see the fight in Kunduz on the news just know I’m alive." Talk about gut wrenching! My dad immediately got on the computer and was able to read all about the event; it was a front page story of the New York Times. Unfortunately, we received text messages like that more than you can imagine.) No more, no more, no more… until he goes back, which will probably happen at least one more time before this horrible war is over. But we can’t focus on that! He has survived his first tour of duty and we are overjoyed that he will be on US soil next month.
Here is the Soldier in full ACU's (Army Combat Uniform) with a few buddies at Fort Drum before deployment. Jack's the one in the middle.

He is truly my HERO and I will forever be thankful to him for risking his life every single day to keep us safe at home. I am so proud of him for his courage, selflessness and loyalty to the USA. Thank you to each and every one of you for your prayers – past, current and future – for his safety. Our family will forever be grateful and hold you close to our hearts!

Below is my daily prayer for Jackson:

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
*The Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer)*
Dear God, please keep Jack safe and healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally. Please watch over him in body, mind and spirit. Please keep him wrapped up in your arms tight enough to protect him from enemy and friendly fire, explosions, vehicles, and enemy hands. Please allow him to feel our prayers, love, pride and strength from half way around the world. Please continue to watch over Jack, our family, all of the military men and women overseas and their families, and each of the kind people that are praying for Jack’s safety. Thank you for keeping him safe and healthy up to this point.
*The Hail Mary*

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I love you, Jackson. Hurry home!
“We are the land of the FREE because of the BRAVE!”

1 comment: