Staff Sgt. John Wyble spent 99 percent of his time in Iraq worrying about the U.S. Marine on his left and the Marine on his right. The other 1 percent was about himself.
"It was never in the front of my mind, getting hurt or that I would die," Wyble said. "It never was there. It was my sense of duty and what I was trained for - to make America victorious."
Wyble, 29, recently returned from four months duty in Iraq and three months in Okinawa, Japan. He said it was the personal letters, packages and photos that kept him going.
"I kept a picture of me and my family inside my helmet so that every time I took it off, I would see them so I knew there was someone to come home to. And a picture of my niece with a sign that reads 'I love my daddy and my uncle.' That meant the world to me."
Wyble called his wife, Stephanie, four times in the four months he was in Iraq and wrote her every day.
"I only told her I missed her and I loved her. Why add to the stress? She sees enough on TV.
"And the mail's pretty bad. It took four weeks to get a package," he said.
"But his cookies were still fresh," said Pat Wyble, his mother. "I used Seal-a-Meal."
"Getting mail was the best thing that could happen for anyone," John added.
He encourages anyone with family or friends overseas to write or send care packages.
Stephanie stayed home in North Carolina while John was overseas, taking care of their two children, Scott, 5, and Brianna, 3.
"You keep yourself busy," Stephanie said. "My kids occupied my time. I wrote letters and sent packages from home. I sent him stuff he likes to eat I knew he couldn't get there.
"But I'll be glad to know he's safe while in school in South Carolina. I didn't know if he was safe while in Iraq."
A 1993 graduate of Carson High School, Wyble follows in the footsteps of a long line of military men.
John's father, Dave Sr., is a 20-year veteran with 9th Engineer Battalion.
His great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War, his great-grandfather, Frederick W. Wyble Sr. was in the Marines in World War I and his grandfather, Frederick Jr., was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His uncle Thomas Wyble served in the Marines. Brothers Dave Jr. was enlisted for four years in the Marines and Brett is a Marine about to graduate from recruiter training in San Diego, plus brother-in-law Virgil Madeiros, married to sister Jennifer, recently completed his enlistment.
"My grandfather, my father, my uncle, all served their country. When I joined, it was to do this as a sense of adventure. I thought four years would be nothing. It was the least I could do as a man for my country."
Now in his fourth enlistment, Wyble said he loves being part of an organization that takes care of him, accepts him for who he is and supports him.
"I've had more camaraderie with the Marines than I did with friends growing up and in school," he said.
But Wyble's safety zone came crashing down in March 2003 as a rocket was fired into Camp Commando, where he was located.
"At that point it (death) was at the front of my mind, but I never thought of myself. I told my Marines we came here together and we were leaving together. We all walked in, we all walked out. I accomplished my mission, thank God."
Wyble got a second reality check as they were traveling north of Kuwait to establish a POW camp and drove into a mine field.
"We drove though it, we made it OK. Before I left (for Iraq), my uncle Tom Wyble gave me a prayer and I believe it saved me. It was about keeping Jesus close to your heart and he would always keep you safe. I believe it."
Wyble also served as Catholic layman for Chaplain Dunham. Crossing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Wyble said, was one of the best moments of his life.
"I was standing in the land of the Bible. I was where it all began."
This area is noted to be the Garden of Eden.
In July, Wyble will report to Perris Island, S.C., to attend drill instructor school for three years. He will also apply to Washington, D.C., to be a warrant officer.
"I'm following in my father's footsteps," he said.
After arriving in Carson City Monday, the Wyble families celebrated John's homecoming with family time and a barbecue.
"We're happy to have him home," Pat said.
Contact Rhonda Costa-Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1223.