Mission to Afghanistan: The youthful faces of deployment
KABUL, Afghanistan — The face of war shows the youthfulness of a new generation.Although many veterans have already served two or three deployments, others are experiencing their first overseas duty. I saw their youthful faces when visiting the USS John C. Stennis and Kandahar Air Field in 2011 and now I see it again at Forward Operating Base Shank and Camp Phoenix.When I was in my 20s, I was entering my profession and trying to establish myself. I had responsibilities, but not the responsibilities our young sailors and soldiers perform day after day. During my time here at Phoenix, I have talked with young mothers who miss their children, yet they are focused on the mission for the 593rd Transportation Company. One such mother is Angela Palmer of Reno, who speaks fondly of her 7-year-old child, yet she knows her husband is taking excellent care of their daughter.“She sends me artwork every week, and I post it my by bed,” Palmer said, as we sat in the unit’s patio area discussing her deployment.Then, there’s Paul Gardner of Winnemucca, who graduated from high school in 2003. As a full-time soldier for the Nevada Army National Guard, he serves as the training NCO (noncommissioned officer) in Winnemucca, but in Afghanistan, he is responsible for every soldier’s administrative record.“For a career, this definitely helps out a lot,” he said, awhile we walked to various areas of the base.Brandon Ortiz recently celebrated his 21st birthday, yet the Reno resident is turning wrenches as a mechanic. He, too, looks at his time in this war-torn country as a stepping stone to help develop a career once he returns home.The wide ranges of Nevada is where David “Chase” Iveson calls home. Living the life is a young man who currently lives in Starr Valley, a beautiful area of Northern Nevada that hugs the Ruby Mountain foothills between Wells and Elmo. Barely in his 20s, Iveson works on a ranch, but here he serves as gunner on convoys. We have been able to share some stories of people we both know in Wells and Starr Valley since I lived in the region during the late 1970s, early 1980s.In nearby Elko, the Greener brothers, both in their 20s, have “each other’s back” in Afghanistan. Dustin, 20, and Chris, 23, are serving their first overseas deployment. Chris said they don’t see each other, but they have faith in each other to do their jobs and to be focused on the mission.Reno’s Jessica Weaver is a 2008 graduate of Douglas High School, she depends on her network of friends with the 593rd and looks up to the older soldiers for their advice.While I was with FOB Shank, I also talked with another set of brothers who both knew my sons at Churchill County High School. Bobby Graves and Jeffrey Fiske are representing a new 20s generation that is making a big impact on their unit’s missions. They both told me they worry about each other, but they know the mission comes first.Each generation wonders what the next will bring, but based on the many young men and women with whom I have interviewed this year at Shank and Phoenix, I feel proud they are serving their country as soldiers in a land half-way around the world.• LVN Editor Steve Ranson, who retired from the National Guard in 2009, is in Afghanistan visiting Nevada guardsmen and will be telling their stories when he returns to the Silver State.