Marine chooses country, family--Reservists are pulled from homes, called to arms for U.S. global war on terrorism
By Sgt. Jacques-René Hébert
| | February 19, 2003
CAMP H. M. SMITH --
Today, the world is troubled. A post-September 11 United States is calling for war on Iraq for its probable connections with Al-Quaida and other terrorist groups, and its potential nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons reserves; France and Germany are calling for more United Nations inspections; and North Korea is demanding diplomacy talks following their announcement of having nuclear capabilities. Indeed, the fate of the world is on the brink of a global time bomb of epic proportions.
However, in the process of being caught up in the foreign relations and the international news of the day, many forget to remember the direct impact current events have on the servicemembers who are called to fight, and their families, who are called on to support.
Reserve Gunnery Sgt. David Vaughn, nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) noncommissioned officer in charge for Marine Forces Pacific, Camp H.M. Smith, is just one Marine among thousands of troops who have been activated for a seemingly eminent war with Iraq. The trials and problems him and his family face, have been felt across the country as reserve forces are mobilized towards the Middle East.
In a way, Vaughn can be thought of as Gunnery Sgt. John Doe - an insignificant faceless name, fighting the war on terrorism. But for him and his family, their problems are very real and very significant.
Vaughn enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1981 and spent nine years in the reserves before joining the active duty ranks in 1990. An NBC chief at the time, he spent the next few years living at Camp Pendleton with his wife, Anne, and his son, Tony, deploying on a regular basis with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines (3/9). It was easier for the family then.
"We'd just had our first child, and my wife and I were both pretty used to the Marine Corps lifestyle," Vaughn explained. "It was that same lifestyle that made us decide that the Intermediate Ready Reserves would be the best choice for the future of our family."
Deploying to war-torn countries is nothing new to Vaughn. In 1992, Vaughn deployed with 3/9 to Somalia during the George C. Bush push towards balancing the continually volatile country.
In 1995, after working at Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Chicago, Vaughn and his wife settled down in Lowell, Ind. Since then, they have earned degrees in education and currently work in local school systems.
In early November 2002, Anne was home alone with their children, Tony and Shayna, when the telephone rang. It was the Marine Corps calling her husband back to duty.
"Even though we thought the call might come, I was still very shocked," Anne recalled. "This is my first year teaching, David has just gotten settled into his position, and with the kids still at a very dynamic and impressionable age, I just didn't want to hear of it."
Unfortunately for the family, though fortunate for the military, the orders could not be refused and Vaughn had two weeks to get his personal affairs organized and ship out to Hawaii.
"In a way, I was very lucky," said Vaughn. "I received some time off for Christmas, and got to spend time with my family before a year of separation."
For a parent to be away from his or her family for more than a year would be difficult for anyone to handle. It was no different for the Vaughns.
"Our son, Tony, is really attentive to the news and what's going on in the world," Vaughn explained. "He is aware what area I'm deploying to, and what the potential dangers might be when I deploy there.
"Our six-year-old, Shayna, just takes it day by day. She doesn't have a concept of a long period of time yet, so some of her questions can be very painful."
Vaughn ensures that he softens the blow of deploying by constantly communicating with his family, via telephone, instant messaging, and electronic mail.
"Keeping in contact with my family definitely helps me get through this," Vaughn explained. "There's not a doubt in my mind that I belong here, but part of me belongs at home, as well. The new technology we have allows me to be there in spirit and in voice."
Despite the separation and the dangers Vaughn is approaching, the remaining Vaughns have retained a stoic attitude toward the whole ordeal.
"Tony didn't like the idea at first," Anne commented. "He still doesn't - he just handles it better.
"As for myself, I'm behind our president's decisions 100 percent. There is no doubt in my mind that we should be over there to bring a lasting peace to the area. I just wish this could have happened at a different time."
For Vaughn, the deployment offers a chance to play a crucial role in winning the war on terrorism, though the negative effects on his family are insurmountable.
"It's a tear between two responsibilities," Vaughn explained. "It's either the greater good or the personal responsibility. It's almost impossible to have both, and sometimes a sacrifice has to be made. Fortunately for myself, it's only a year."
While the Vaughns have settled into a routine of electronic communication and frequent telephone calls to pacify the family's fears and doubts, the leaders of the country continue to parlay back and forth across the globe, country to country, in pursuit of another type of diplomatic balance. Many times, as it is with war, the individual is forgotten and becomes a faceless name - a tagline in a newspaper article. But for the families affected, it's a much more tangible feeling, one of a thousand facets that must be dealt with when the call to arms is sounded.
"I'm shocked, proud, angry, sad - did I miss any?" Anne exclaimed. "I just have a mix of emotions. It's a strain on our marriage - we're not used to the separation and the kids have never seen him deploy. But above all that, we have a strong belief in God and we know that in the end, it will be all right.
"I'm proud of my husband and what he's doing. Whatever the cost, I know it's the right thing to do."