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Face of Defense: Father of Seven Returns to Active Duty

By Army Pfc. Charles Wolfe
Special to American Forces Press Service

JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 9, 2009 – Army Spc. Jonathan Goodwin is a lot of different things: husband, father of seven children, jokester, and the kind of person who can light up a room with his sense of humor. But before he was any of these things, he became a soldier, signing up for his first enlistment in May 1992.

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Army Spc. Jonathan Goodwin stands in front of the unit’s offices in Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, May 31, 2009. Goodwin, a North Carolina native, is a husband and father of seven who rejoined the Army after a break in service. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Charles Wolfe

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The decision to serve wasn’t a hard one for Goodwin. At the time, he was an aspiring chemical engineering major, studying in his native state at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University. He had a small apartment, three roommates and a full-time job. However, the costs of education and housing outstretched Goodwin’s meager salary, and eventually hunger began to set in.

“I looked in the refrigerator one day, and we didn’t have anything but ice and eggs. I didn’t know how we were going to make it,” Goodwin said.

Then, fate made a timely intervention. An Army recruiter was visiting residents of Goodwin’s apartment complex. When he saw the young student sitting outside his door, he made an offer Goodwin couldn’t refuse.

“He said he would take me out to eat if I just listened to him about joining the military,” Goodwin said. “Everything he said to me seemed to make sense.”

One dinner later, Goodwin joined the Army’s ranks as a supply specialist. The decision to serve wasn’t made on the hope of one meal; Goodwin recently had welcomed his first child, and he knew the military could help to provide stability for his new family.

“I knew it was going to be a struggle to work, go to school and raise my child,” Goodwin said. “It made sense to help my family.”

As the years passed, Goodwin’s family grew, and with time was able to sustain itself without his military paycheck. Goodwin ended his first tenure with the Army to return to life as a private citizen.

However, six children and 13 years after being sworn in, fate found Goodwin again, calling him back to duty a second time.

“My brother, a Marine colonel, died in Iraq in 2005,” Goodwin said. “That was my main motivation for ending my break in service and returning to the Army.”

That same year, Goodwin served his first deployment in the same country where his brother died. In Afghanistan now on his second combat tour, Goodwin has a large responsibility. As the supply specialist for his battalion, Goodwin is in charge of maintaining accountability for a large amount of crucial and sensitive equipment.

With seven children and a wife back home, Goodwin has much to account for, both on and off the battlefield.

“I have a large family,” he said.

With seven children between the ages of 6 and 15, the Goodwins are more than double the size of most families.

“They love me and I love them,” Goodwin said. “I’m the king of my castle, and everyone loves the king.”

Spending a second year away from his wife and children would seem difficult, he said, but his family makes for a very large, encouraging support group.

“The kids are all very proud to have a dad in the Army,” Goodwin said. “They’re proud of me, and I’m proud of them. I’m really happy with the way they handle things back at home while I’m gone.”

All seven of Goodwin’s children made their schools’ honor rolls this year. Their efforts in the classroom seem to inspire Goodwin to return to his schooling as well.

“I still really want to get that degree,” he said.

(Army Pfc. Charles Wolfe serves in the 1st Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Jonathan Goodwin sits in his “Gator,” a motorized working vehicle he uses to move his unit’s supplies from one place to the next at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, May 31, 2009. Goodwin, a North Carolina native, is a husband and father of seven who rejoined the Army after a break in service. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Charles Wolfe  
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