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Face of Defense: Florida Spouses Deploy Together to Iraq

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa
Special to American Forces Press Service

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., July 13, 2009 – When Army Pfc. Joseph James deploys this month he won’t have to say goodbye to his wife, Army Pfc. Samantha James -- she will be with him throughout his yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Pfc. Joseph James and his wife, Army Pfc. Samantha James, volunteered to deploy together to Iraq. The couple is assigned to the Florida Army National Guard’s 1218th Transportation Company, based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo courtesy of Florida National Guard.
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Joseph and Samantha are one of three married couples deploying together with the Florida Army National Guard’s 1218th Transportation Company, based here. The couples -- truck drivers assigned to the Guard’s 3-116th Forward Support Company -- all volunteered for the transportation mission to Southwest Asia.

The unit left Florida on July 8 and is at Camp Atterbury, Ind., for additional training before heading to Iraq.

Joseph, 18, and Samantha, 19, met during military training and tied the knot in April. Joseph said one of the reasons they volunteered to deploy together was so they wouldn’t be split up for a year.

“Honestly, I’ll still be a little bit unfocused worrying about my spouse, but I’ll be more focused knowing that she is here and not back home a thousand miles away,” he explained. “It will be easier for me to concentrate on the mission and get done what we need to do.”

Samantha said she is anxious about the mission since this is her first deployment, but having her husband with her will help make the deployment go by faster.

“I’m a little nervous, but it’s going to be a lot easier since we’ll be together, and we have close friends going with us,” she said.

Army Pfc. Ancharad Shoon, 21, and Army Pvt. Rashida Shoon, 22, have been married for three months. They joined the military together and said it was natural to deploy together as well.

“The likeliness of us getting deployed with different units was extremely high, so we just volunteered to go with one unit,” Rashida said. “Instead of us being separated we would be together.”

The deployment will have both “pros and cons” for the couple, she said.

“Even though we’re going together as a married couple, we can’t go on the same missions together; someone has to stay back at the rear,” Rashida explained. “You’ll still be a little nervous and scared wondering what’s going on and if they’re OK, but it’s a lot better than him being all the way in another country.”

Ancharad said having his wife with him during the deployment will help ease the stress many couples have when they are separated by lengthy deployments.

“There will be less of a headache of wondering if she’s OK at home, and her wondering if I’m OK overseas,” he said. “She’ll be right there with me so she’ll know firsthand what’s happening with me.”

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa serves with the Florida National Guard public affairs office.)

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