I was in Guard MOS [military occupational specialty] training when my mom called me one night, crying. When I asked what was going on, she told me that they’d just lost the house, and they were getting evicted in a matter of days. I had no idea there were any problems.
Even though the economy was faltering, my dad’s construction business’ profit margin was at its best only three months before the bank foreclosed on our house. For some reason, the economy was taking a little longer to catch up with us down there. But then the bottom completely fell out, leaving him, my mother, and my siblings without anywhere to live.
As mom cried on the phone, I asked her where they were going to live now, but she told me she had no idea. I told her I’d see what I could do.
I called around to a few Guard stations in the state, asking them all if there was a unit deploying to Iraq anytime soon. One, a military police unit, said they were. Well, then send me to MP school, I told them. I was volunteering for the tour.
I started checking real estate listings back home, and before long I found a decent, three bedroom house sitting on a fairly large piece of land. With a little work, I bought it, and now there are seven people living in it – all my family.
And that’s actually why I’m over here in Iraq. I volunteered for it because I needed a deployment to help pay for the house. I don’t think it’s a bad reason at all, but not as “good looking” as God, country and patriotism or something. But I have to do this. I may be only twenty years old right now, but I need to take care of my family.
I know a lot of people get over here and complain about how the Army is screwing them over or how morale is really bad, but I can’t complain. I needed this deployment. If it wasn’t for the war, the Army, and this tour, my entire family would be living on the streets right now. There’s just no way to make any money in my hometown. So, I’m thankful. Not exactly for the war, but for the opportunity to help out my family.
People have asked me if I’m going to make a career out of this, but I’m not going to. I’ve loved the time I’ve spent in, I’ve loved that this has helped my family, and I really love the Army, too. I’m proud as hell for serving. Everybody is, even if they get out. And that’s what I intend to do, for a lot of reasons.
Even though I volunteered for this, it takes a toll on you. I’m weary. I miss my family. I miss home. I’ve met somebody too, and it’s tough to maintain a relationship with her when I’m deployed all the time. But more than anything, I have a bigger dream. I want to do what dad did. He got married at 18 to his highschool sweetheart, bought a house, and started raising a family. They’re still married, too. That’s all I want do, and I really can’t if I’m deployed all the time. One of my buddies broke down the other day, and I asked him what was up. He told me it’s hard to watch his little girl grow up on a computer screen. So, I’ll be getting out. I want to find a wife, raise a family and then work to support them. That’s the American dream to me, and what I’m doing here is just helping to get me there.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved