A soldier’s life: the first assignment overseas
Appeal Staff Writer
On the morning that Justin Krodel is leaving for his first overseas’ assignment, he’s packing possessions that will remind him of home and nursing a hangover, the result of the traditional farewell before a soldier leaves for war.
The 25-year-old Carson City man is joining the 1st Armored Division of the U.S. Army, which could be deployed to Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan for up to three years. The most important things are going with the former BMX champion. He’s taking apart his S&M street bike and fitting it into a black Army duffel bag.
“I want to go, but I’m nervous,” he says before gulping down a pint of orange juice. His parents brought breakfast from Jack in the Box. Krodel’s last meal at home before shipping off to Baumholder, Germany, is two sourdough Jacks.
His girlfriend of four years, Christina Keith, will drop him off at the Reno airport.
“He’ll be in a different country now. It’s not like I can drive in and see him,” she says. “It hasn’t hit me yet that he’s going. It probably will later today.”
Sandy Krodel, his mother, has known this day would be coming since she watched him graduate from boot camp at Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla. He was the first one across the stage, she said, for graduating No. 1 out of 240 soldiers. She and her husband, Joe, were happy to see their son join the Army a year ago.
“He was just aimlessly going nowhere,” she says. “No goals. He just couldn’t get focused.”
Krodel went from being a Carson High School dropout – he left school his junior year – to a “distinguished honor platoon” private first class.
He joined “to straighten up and get some money for education and for travel.”
Krodel earned his GED and qualified for rocket launching. Between doing push-ups and learning never to leave his weapon out of arms reach, Krodel said he also developed focus.
His mother agrees.
“I would rather have him in Iraq than wandering aimlessly just riding his bike,” she says.
Before they head out the door, Sandy Krodel hugs her son and blinks back tears.
“Relax, relax, relax,” he says to his mother. “I’ll be back. I promise.”
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.