Saturday, July 30, 2011

Who Fights Our Wars: Staff Sergeant Jeremy Houck

At the good-bye dinner in late January 2009, the night before 2-104th board the planes to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, my family and I sat with Sgt. Jeremy Houck and his parents.  Jeremy sat with next to his Mom on one side and my daughter Lisa on the other.  Lisa was a senior in high school.  When we all had our food, Lisa had green beans, mashed potatoes (no gravy) and salad.  Jeremy loked at her plate and said, "Where's your dinner?"  Lisa told him she was a vegetarian and did not eat meat.  Jeremy said, "I am a carnivore.  I don't eat vegetables."  For much of the rest of dinner they made jokes about each other's eating habits.  During the deployment, Lisa sent me brownies, but included a protein brownie for Jeremy in one batch and a can of Spam in another.  Jeremy at the brownie and the Spam.

From training for the deployment in PA, through training in Oklahoma and Kuwait, to the deployment itself, Jeremy was out in front of all kinds of training.  He led PT at 0530 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in Oklahoma and was a convoy commander in Oklahoma and Kuwait.  He went down the rappel ropes as many times as he could and went over and and over in the Humvee rollover trainer.  He could help other soldiers with all kinds of basic skills.  His smoking kept him off the top of the PT score list, but he always scored high.  

When we got to Iraq, Jeremy was right at the center of a dispute that lasted the rest of the deployment.  He is an electrician with a degree in electrical engineering.  When we arrived in country Tallil was not ready for us.  Echo lost two maintenance squad leaders on the second day.  Jeremy went from maintenance squad leader to electrician.  He worked full time for the rest of the deployment getting power to maintenance hangars, operations centers and headquarters offices.  The motor pool wanted him back.  Jeremy was in the middle.  But he and the rebuild team did some great work across the base throughout the deployment.

Jeremy helped me personally more times than I can count.  In one particular instance, he kept me going when I was ready to quit.  Before deployment, Jeremy, Sgt. Kevin Bigelow and I were three of the first ten soldiers to go through the new Live Fire Shoot House at Fort Indiantown Gap.  This was in the fall of 2008, just a month before I had surgery to repair four ligaments in my right shoulder--left over damage from the big bike accident in 2007.  First day we had to fire and M4 on full auto with one hand.  I shoot right handed.  I was going to quit.  Jeremy convinced me I could do it.  He was right.  I made it through and had a lot more confidence going into the deployment because I finished that course.

Jeremy is in Afghanistan now.  He is with an engineer unit.  He volunteered almost as soon as we returned to America.  When he comes back Lisa and I will take him out to whatever kind of carnivore dinner he wants.