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 out.”
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)