Goodbyes never are any easier for tours

Published 3:29 pm Saturday, August 15, 2009

It has been nine years since 17 people died and 39 were injured in an attack on the American guided missile destroyer, USS Cole, in Aden harbor, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. My son Robert was dispatched from his duties as an American Embassy Guard to assist in the recovery of the dead.

It is almost eight years since Dec. 13, 2001, and I received a letter from Robert, stating he was with the unit at Camp Rhino, Afghanistan, the unit in a highly complex operation, hundreds of Marines secured Kandahar’s airport before dawn Friday, taking control of a facility of strategic importance for restoring order, providing aid and possibly shoring up defenses against remaining Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

In 2003 we were looking forward to my son coming home and starting college and joining me possibly in my business as the United States invaded Iraq. His enlistment was involuntarily extended for the invasion.

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In 2004 my son did come home and started college and was called back to duty six months later to complete an eight-year obligation to the military to serve a second tour in Iraq.

In 2006 my son left the Marines and joined the Army. Robert loved the Marines; however, the Army was offering more money, and he decided to make a career of the military.

This month my son returns to Afghanistan for no longer than 400 days as his unit’s orders state.

Our family gathered this weekend from all sides, over one hundred family members to wish him well and see him off. The last time I saw that many people together was when his mother and I married. Before our meal we all joined hands, one large family saying grace and asking God to watch over Robert and to return him back safely to us, as he defends our freedom, answering the call of our president and nation once again.

George Gillespie

Albert Lea