StoryCorps traveled to Alaska in February to record the voices of our service men and women. This story comes to us from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.
At StoryCorps, Army Sergeant Jason Smith tells his wife, Lucia Artacho, about his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
Lucia tells Jason why she’s decided to enlist in the Army. The couple is starting to notice how their three-year-old is adjusting to having parents who are both soldiers.
Lucia: “We were sitting — I think it was for dinner — and your daughter, who is three years old right now, told you she was going to be a soldier. What are your thoughts on that?”
Jason: “She was talking about it the whole way back from gymnastics too. You didn’t hear that? She likes to repeat these stories. She said that you were going to go into the Army, and that you were going to be gone and that she was going to miss you. But then you were going to come back for a little while. And after you were back then she was going to go. Then she would come back and her little brother would go. And we would all miss each other in this chain of missing each other and coming back.”
Lucia: “She was referring to the fact that now I am going into the military. I will be going to basic training within a month. And we’ve been talking about me going to training and me going to miss them. But I will be back.”
“So to a new soldier like me, with all the experience that you’ve had so far, what would you like to tell me?”
Jason: “That’s a tough question, hun. I don’t know that I would tell you the same thing that I would tell somebody that I wasn’t married to. I want to protect you more. And I feel like I would want to hold on to you tighter and say don’t go because I wouldn’t want to say goodbye to you. But, you know, if that’s what you want to do then I support you. Because I know that it’s going to make you happy. And I know that you’ve had to deal with those same sort of feelings with me and I think it’d kind of be unfair if I told you I didn’t want you to go because I was going to worry too much about you. I know that you worried about me.”
Lucia: “I’ve felt like, in the short time that I have that I need to do something useful. And money is not the factor perhaps that it was when I was younger. And I start thinking about the military, and I like it because it’s a regimented lifestyle, it’s very active — those are all things that I like. It’s something that I felt like I really wanted to do, but I thought that it was not compatible with being a good mother.”
“All the time I was thinking, ‘I am going to be old and bitter about never giving it a chance.’ And now we’re in a position where your mom is coming to live with us, she’s helping with the kids, and you are an absolutely amazing father. You can handle all of your load and then more. And I want to do it for myself.”
“I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing. I just know that I cannot not try it.”
“I know that the hardest thing during training is going to be not being with you guys. I know I’m going to miss you and our daughter and our son and Nana. And I’m going to be thinking — somewhere cold and eating an MRE, and thinking — ‘ohh, it’s dinner time at home!’ “
Jason: “I don’t think it’ll be cold. I think it’ll be totally the opposite of here.”
Lucia: “OK, then that’ll be one less problem!”
“I know I’m going to missing you guys and I’ll be looking forward to coming back home.”
Jason: “Yeah, us too.”
Jason and Lucia’s interview was recorded in February at Fort Wainwright. The full 40-minute interview is archived at the Library of Congress.
Lucia is currently at basic training in Missouri. Jason says she’s doing great.
This piece was edited by John Norris at Alaska Public Media.