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Reflections My Personal Journey Chapter 6 Our Journey Together
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When my wife, Janice and I first met I was a single father of two sons who were 5 and 7 years old. Kristopher was my youngest son and Garry the oldest. Janice was a single mother of one daughter named Samantha who was 4 years old. Janice and Sam had been living in a small one bedroom apartment in Hazlehurst about a mile from her parent’s home. My brother Larry, the boys and I were living in some apartments in Jackson. Larry and his girlfriend Amanda were still helping me with the boys while I worked in the evenings. When Janice and I first moved in together we quickly saw that my apartment was not going to be big enough so we rented a three bedroom house in Jackson. After living there for nearly a year we decided to build our own home.
Janice’s father had 52 acres of land and let me purchase a nice piece of front property next door to Janice’s sister. In late December 1990 we moved in our new home. This is where our journey really got interesting. We had just recently found out that Janice was pregnant and we were very excited. Even though we had three children between us we had decided that we really wanted a child that was both ours. With a new house and a child on the way; things were really off to a great start. Things were even going great in my career. After seven years and going as far as I could go without a college degree at NAPA I decided that it was time for a change. I was offered a Computer Operator position with KLLM Trucking Company and had started there in August 1990. They had given me a significant pay increase and I really loved my new job. Just a few months prior my younger brother Larry had decided that he wanted to join the Mississippi Army National Guard to help pay for his school tuition. He had enrolled in college and was majoring in computer science. He had gotten a job in the National Guard as a Computer Systems Analyst and had told me about it. I had already done my initial 8 years in the National Guard and had gotten out. I had been with the Military Police Unit in Brandon and the 2/20th Special Forces Unit in Jackson. I really had no plans of re-enlisting in the military but being the good big brother I was I decided to join his unit for one year to help show him the ropes. Because of my computer background I was awarded the same MOS as my brothers without having to go through any additional schooling and placed in his same unit. My plan was simple; attend drills for one year and go to one two-week summer camp to help my little brother get acclimated to the military. Then I was going to just get back out of the military and move on with my life. I was now 28 years old.
Then one fateful day everything changed. I was at work and walking past some co-worker who had turned the radio up unusually loud. Then someone asked, “Aren't you in the National Guard? You better listen to this.” I listened on the radio as I learned that our National Guard Unit had been called up to active duty and we were to call our unit for further instructions. I called and learned that we had to report to our unit later that same evening; to come packed with full military gear ready to be deployed to active duty. You talk about a short notice but this was ridiculous! KLLM was great. Somehow in a very short period of time they threw me a going away party and assured me my job would be waiting for me upon my return. I met Janice and the kids at home. We packed my bags and equipment and loaded the car up and headed to the armory to report for duty. I was very concerned for Janice, with her being five months pregnant and now she was going to have to raise the three kids on her own while I was away. But she stayed strong and handled it all with grace. They dropped me off at my unit and we went through all the pre-deployment activities. Before we left we were given our airline tickets and allowed to go home and say our proper goodbyes. What a sad day that was but I knew Janice was a strong woman and was surrounded by family so that made me feel a little more at ease.
We were stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. We were sent to replace another unit that was scheduled to be sent to Iraq. Each day we reported to work just like they did and were trained to take over for them. The job was not bad at all but I missed my family deeply. We were allowed to use the phone in the evenings so I was able to talk to Janice on a fairly regular basis which made things much better. Then in March they let us have a weekend pass and I had Janice fly out to see me. She had never flown before and she was now seven months pregnant so I was a bit hesitant but we missed each other so much that we just made it happen. I rented a nice suite for the weekend and also rented a car for us to do some sight seeing. We had an amazing weekend as we took in all the beauty the Colorado Mountain’s have to offer.
Fortunately by May the war had all but ended. They had told us that we would be allowed to begin returning home within a number of weeks. The unit needed a couple of people to return to Camp Shelby to assist with the return of units as we all began coming home. Since they knew that Janice was about to deliver at any moment they let me and another guy who had a vehicle there to drive back home and report for duty at Camp Shelby. I still wasn't home but being an hour and a half away from home was much better than being 1200 miles away. Janice and the kids were able to drive down and see me a few times and once all troops had returned I was able to return home to my family. Then on May 24, 1991 our daughter Jessica was born thus completing our family.
Once officially off of active duty I returned to KLLM Trucking. They had already hired another Computer Operator but the guy they had hired to manage the department was not working out. Within a few days after my return they promoted me to Computer Operations Manager which was my first real job in management and just another opportunity the Lord had given me to further develop my leadership skills. By the time we had returned from Desert Storm I had gone well over my one-year commitment with the National Guard and decided that I wanted to be a civilian again so that I could focus on my career. After Desert Storm unit training really picked up and instead of two-day weekends and two-week summer camps we started having three-day weekends and three week summer camps. I saw this was going to be a major inconvenience not only on my family life but my job as well so I decided to part ways with the military.
Check back tomorrow for Chapter 7, Finally Living for God
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