On a special Veterans Day four years ago, the 304th Public Affairs Detachment, based out of Seattle, WA, came home from a year’s deployment in Afghanistan. My son, Jason, finally came home. Jason said at it was a moment he'll never forget. For our family, it meant his seat at the holiday dinner table wouldn’t be empty any longer. We wouldn’t have to wait for those brief weekly phone calls from halfway around the world.
For many of you who don’t know him, I thought I’d introduce my Army veteran, Jason Venturini. Jason served two 12-month tours overseas. First in Iraq with the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Pittsburgh, PA. Then in Afghanistan with 304th Public Affairs Detachment.
Mark: I know you weren't in a combat unit, but for you and other Soldiers in your units, what was the hardest part of deployment?
Jason: There are many ways to approach this question so I’ll give two separate, yet equally relevant answers. 1) While overseas, especially in my second deployment I was more worried about issues at home: my family, friends grieving for lost loved ones. I actually felt a lot of guilt over there. 2) I will always say that the hardest part of a deployment is coming home. Less than 1% of the American population has ever experienced combat deployment, but they are always ready to give their opinions about you or the war, usually both. The hardest thing is truly coming back to an unsympathetic culture.
Mark: Was either deployment harder than the other?
Jason: My first deployment in Iraq was the hardest. Being in the Public Affairs Office I had the privilege to write stories on many military jobs within a war zone that would normally go unseen. Everyone sees the infantry and other combat jobs on the news every night on CNN or Fox…but without the tireless effort of the support side of the Army, nothing is possible. In Afghanistan, I worked on a 48-page monthly magazine that went all over the country as well as back to the Pentagon and the top brass of the Army.
Mark: What gave you the biggest sense of pride while deployed?
Jason: No question, the humanitarian aid missions I did for the local Iraqis/Afghans. I've had the opportunity to meet many celebrities because of my job, but what I always go back to are the kids I met at the local schools that we simply tried to help. Nothing will ever compare to that.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Jason. As I looked at the pictures from a few years ago, I couldn't help but wonder what those children are doing now. Many of the young ladies may be married, perhaps with children of their own. Are they safe? With the advance of ISIS and their hate-filled extreme ideology in Iraq, I pray that there are young adults who still remember the kindness of the US military and the US people trying to build a bridge of friendship. Jason, I truly pray your effort wasn't in vain.