“This is a lot like the field that I had my first fire fight in” Justin said. We were hunting a field on the early goose opener in 2011. Justin continued “the guy was shooting at us from one end and there was no where to go and nothing to do except run towards him, you know how in the movies time slows down when people are getting shot at? Well it really does happen, at least the first 20 times. After a while it’s no big deal anymore.” This is the first time Justin has mentioned anything to me about his combat time in Afghanistan.
Growing up Justin always wanted to be in the Military. He ended up deciding to go to school for Law Enforcement instead of joining the Marines. After he graduated and found out he was still to young for one of the tests to become a Police Officer he decided to join the Marines, after all it would help his career.
Justin went to boot camp. Our parents, Justin’s girlfriend (now wife), myself and Amy went out to see his graduation. I was told by people he would change after boot camp. the only thing that changed about him was that he now had an obsession with washing his hands! HAHA
Well eventually Justin got stationed in North Carolina. Once they got settled in Jennifer and Justin decided it was time to get married. My parents and Amy and I went down to be witness’ to the marriage at the Justice of Peace office. Jenn and Justin then started making plans for the big wedding back home in Minnesota. I was appointed best man and Amy was maid of honor. During my speech I had a hard time keeping it together. When I talk about how proud I am of him I still have to fight to hold back tears.
Justin and Jenn headed back to North Carolina with plans to come back for our wedding in February. We found out in January that there was a chance that Justin would not make it back for the wedding because they were starting to train now for Afghanistan just in case they got called up. At the wedding we learned that Jenn was now pregnant!
Not long after the wedding we got the call that Justin would have to leave for Afghanistan in May of 2010. This was very hard on everyone. I can’t imagine what Jenn was going through at the time. She was going to have to have their baby while he was fighting a war half way across the world.
Justin served in 2nd Battalion 6th Marine Echo Company from May 2010 until January 2011. They were stationed in Marjah which was one of the most hostile areas in Afghanistan at the time. They were taking fire the first day they arrived and they got the bad news that the base had to many personnel on it and they were going to have to sleep in their bags in the sand until the other unit went home a couple weeks later. While stationed in Marjah they had 17 KIA and more then 75 wounded… One night I was fishing with a friend on the St Croix River and I got an email from Justin. They left Marjah for 3 days for some R and R and a much needed shower. I told him I was fishing and sent him some pictures. I think seeing stuff like that helped him, it helped him remember what they are fighting for.
When Justin came home this time he did change. He had lost most of his hearing in his left ear, his knees shoulders and feet were in constant pain and mentally he was suffering as well. He had to try and adjust to civilian life and learn how to be a father fast. His son was 4 months old the first time he saw him. He had a short temper and always was on edge. He eventually got help from the V A after left the Marines.
I am happy to say that my brother is back now and doing much better.
I am sitting in bed in my new home, with my beautiful wife who is about to have our second son Weston right next to me and my other son Cole who is now 2 and a half is sleeping less then 30 ft from me in his room… I am so damn lucky to have people like Justin who are willing to fight for everything we take for granted. Right now there are thousands of soldiers sleeping in the dirt missing their families and friends. They are doing it for US.
Please take a minute and thank service men and women every time you get a chance.
If you know someone who has served and isn’t back to themselves yet, there is hope. Sometimes they need to find their own way and sometimes they need a push. Just talk to them and see if you can help in anyway.
Thank you to all service men and women!