Tom Eustice of Janesville, Minnesota: Another Tour of Duty:
JANESVILLE, Minnesota — Staff Sgt.
Tom Eustice got the call Tuesday that he’d known was all but certain to come.
The 38-year-oldJanesville grandfather and nearly 2,600 other Minnesota National
Guard soldiers are being mobilized to fight the war in Iraq. While Eustice has
known for several weeks that mobilization of his unit was very likely, he
remains nervous about what the next 18 months will bring. Still, his biggest
concern seems to be with his wife, Maureen.
“This is my wife’s third time of
having somebody being deployed” Eustice said. First a year and half ago, it was
Eustice being sent to serve in Italy as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. That
service took her husband for nine months. Then it was their daughter Teah
Sylvara, being sent to Iraq when her Guard unit was mobilized. She been gone for
17 months. Now, it is Eustice’s turn again, this time,
for 18 more months. “I really don’t think the public understands how much
soldiers and their families sacrifice. It’s huge,’ Eustice said. “My wife hasn’t
had a Christmas with her family in almost four years. We sacrifice a lot.”
The only consolation is that Teah is
scheduled to return in late September a time when Eustice is likely to be at
Camp Selby, Mississippi, receiving final training before his deployment. So
while he might go nearly three years without seeing his daughter, at least his
wife won’t have two family members fighting insurgents in Iraq at the same time.
“That takes a big load off my mind,” he said.
There’s still plenty to think about.
His granddaughter, Sophi, was a baby when he was called up the last time and was
walking and talking when he saw her again. Now she’ll be almost 4 when he
finishes the upcoming deployment, and he wonders what milestones will occur
while he’s gone.
“It’s very tough to miss those things,” he said.
The general manager of the Waseca
Happy Chef, he worries about how the restaurant will deal with a key employee
being called away again. “I have bosses who are still trying to figure that
And then there’s Iraq. He doesn’t know what his unit will be assigned to do, but it’s likely to be far different than guarding an air base in Italy.
“I’m apprehensive. It’s a different
mission,” he said. “But I’ve always believed — and my father always taught me —
that if your country asks you to serve, you serve. A 21-year-veteran of the
National Guard, Eustice serves in New Ulm with the 1st Battalion of the 125th
Field Artillery. While the battalion is designed to provide artillery support to
a larger brigade, it’s assignment could be almost anything including the
dangerous urban infantry duties that epitomize the Iraqi war. “I’m
the basic soldier” he said. “I go and do what they tell me to do.”
Tuesday’s mobilization order didn’t
specify Iraq, but Eustice said he was informed late Tuesday afternoon that
that’s where he’s headed. He’s not sure what to think of the Iraq War. “I don’t
know if I believe it’s a worthy cause but I believe soldiers sometimes have to
do things that they don’t necessarily support,” he said.
His skepticism centers not so much on the goals of the war as the way America was brought into it. “I sometimes have doubts about the way it came to be, he said.
But regardless of how people feel
about the war, Eustice hopes that they will help the families of those serving
over seas. And he asks that Americans never ever take their soldiers for
granted. “That’s one thing we should never do — forget what soldiers and sailors
and Marines do for our country” By Mark Fisehenich for Mankato (MN) Free Press
(August 17, 2005)