Tour of duty ends. Glad to be back home
Editor’s note: The final two installments of Tom Maiden’s “A Military Journal” follow.
It seems hard for me to believe that I am finally on my way home. I feel like it was a lifetime ago (April 18, 2008, to be exact), while eating breakfast at Betty’s Restaurant in Shepherdstown, when I opened the envelope containing the orders for my recall to active military duty.
I’m currently completing my out-processing at the Navy Mobilization Processing Site (NMPS) at Naval Station Norfolk, in Virginia. The purpose of the NMPS is to ensure that sailors are medically and psychologically fit and they have completed all of their administrative requirements, including security clearances, ID cards, life and health insurance, etc.
The Navy has 12 NMPS sites throughout the country. NMPS Norfolk is one of the four largest centers responsible for the mobilization and demobilization of more than 50,000 Navy Reserve sailors since its establishment shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
As you can imagine, I have to wait in a lot of lines with my fellow sailors to be processed. While waiting, I enjoy chit chatting with my fellow service members.
I have learned from these conversations that the servicemen and women that I have the privilege to serve with come from a diversity of backgrounds, races, religions and political persuasions. Nevertheless, what they all have in common is they are volunteers and share a devoted love and dedication to the principles that made our country free.
As Navy individual augmentees, we all learned a lot of procedures and tactics that are normally foreign to those accustomed to life aboard ship. While most sailors know how to walk from stem to stern, it was the walking in formation that had some feeling like fish out of water.
In order to accomplish the transition from sailor to soldier, we all completed a shortened version of combat basic training and learned Army tactics and doctrines. The training included patrol techniques, land navigation and urban assault.
Considering that 85 percent of the world’s population lives within 200 nautical miles of the sea and that there are over 900,000 miles of navigable rivers in the world, one can see how crucial it is for our Navy to be involved on the ground providing combat support to the Marine Corps and Army.
Hopefully, our service helped make the world a better place for our children and for children all over the world.
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I am happy to say that I arrived home from my deployment to Iraq on Friday, June 5. It seems like a decade since I opened my active duty orders at Betty’s Restaurant in Shepherdstown. It’s been just fourteen months.
Reflecting on my duty in Iraq, I am humbled by the idealism and bravery of my fellow service members. Each and every day of my deployment, I received strength and motivation from the dedicated and courageous men and women with whom I was privileged to serve.
They know what you and America expects of them. You expect them to be tough. You expect them to be good at their job You expect them to protect the innocent. You expect them to serve with honor.
They serve out of a simple sense of duty; the same patriotism for which the Minutemen of Lexington stood. This generation of remarkable men and women, supported by their families, are a national treasure.
These guardians of liberty and their families embody the spirit of service and sacrifice. To them, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Each of the Americans I served with in Iraq has their own story. Unfortunately, for many and their families, the war will not end when they come home. It will live on through their memories of fellow
soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice.
As you go through your daily routine, please remember the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are serving in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, in places like Korea and Kosovo, and on ships and submarines at sea around the world.
I am personally grateful for the thousands of letters I have received from residents of the Eastern Panhandle filled with words of appreciation and support. The spiritual nourishment of a kind word
has a tangible impact.
West Virginia’s heritage is filled with stories of men and women who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. Their names are written into bridges and buildings throughout the Mountain State.
They are etched into the stones of our cemeteries. Most precious of all, they live on in the memories and the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.
With admiration and humble gratitude, I will always remember the men and women with whom I served in Iraq.
– Tom Maiden lives in Shepherdstown with his wife and four children. When not serving as a “Citizen Sailor”, Tom works part time teaching insurance & financial planning at Shepherd University and owns a financial planning practice in Shepherdstown.