When a soldier comes home from war, it certainly is a joyous time for the whole family. It can be a romantic one for a couple that has been separated for a long time. But it isn’t necessarily an easy transition. For anyone.
Last Friday was an incredibly happy day for the Sterns family of Sutton. Autumn, Valyn and Krynna welcomed home their very favorite soldier from his latest deployment in Afghanistan. Sergeant 1st Class Chris Sterns, husband of Autumn and father to Valyn and Krynna, had been away from his family for most of the past year on his third deployment overseas.
Sterns has been deployed three times since he has been with the Army National Guard. “About every 5 years I’ve been deployed. The first time in in 2001 and then again in 2005. Usually I stay around a year. The second time I stayed about 15 month, this last time was a year,” explains Sterns. He has been a member of the National Guard for 9 years before he started applying for full-time jobs within the organization. In 2002 he became full-time with Army National Guard based in Grand Island, Nebraska. He says the most rewarding aspect of his career all of the knowledge he has gained over the years. “They build you up so much. All the training and education, they really make you into the best soldier you can be. Sometime you don’t realize the knowledge you have.”
When his unit was to be deployed to Afghanistan last year, he noticed that about 90% of the soldiers were extremely young, including another Sutton soldier, Kevin George, a mechanic for the Chinook. “I was not going to stay back and watch my unit go off without me…me being the full-timer.”
But now that Sterns has returned, the family is in the process of resuming their lives with a husband and father that has been a full-time, active duty soldier for 24 hours a day in a decidedly violent war zone. “The neighbors at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Shank tried to kill us on a regular basis.” Sterns says the American soldiers referred to their enemy as ‘fair weather terrorists’ because if it was raining that day, rockets weren’t usually launched at them.
Sterns makes light of an extremely dangerous situation, the fact is that the time spent in such a perilous atmosphere has affected him and will continue to affect his daily activities for sometime. The family has a few rules to help everyone cope with this time of transition. “I tell the girls, don’t try to scare Dad for fun. Don’t come up behind him quietly. Talk to him when you are approaching him. Even if he can see me, I talk to him when I am coming toward him,” explains Autumn. “When he came home after his last deployment, it was the 4th of July and a very loud firework went off. Chris just hit the dirt. I try to tell people, ‘Don’t say anything to him. It is just a reaction that he can’t help.” Sgt. Stern adds, “I can’t just turn it off. I’ve been living this way for a year.”
To read the full story, see this week's issue of the Clay County News (5/30/12)