A Christmas surprise: Local man gets leave over holidaysNational Guard Sgt. James Lauck III told his kids that Santa brought him home for Christmas. “Yeah,” agreed daughter Sophia, as she happily broke into her rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
National Guard Sgt. James Lauck III told his kids that Santa brought him home for Christmas.
“Yeah,” agreed daughter Sophia, as she happily broke into her rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
“They (his kids) didn’t know I was coming home,” Lauck said with a smile while sitting around his kitchen table in rural Star Prairie last Wednesday. “So it was a surprise.”
Lauck has been deployed in the war in Afghanistan since October. A soldier with Company B, 1-128th Infantry Unit in New Richmond, Lauck volunteered for extra overseas duty in the war-torn country.
“I wanted to do my part over there,” Lauck explained.
He is attached to the Massachusetts National Guard, working with the 101st Airborne Division in Kunar Province of Afghanistan.
“We are in the eastern portion of the nation,” he said. “I can see the Pakistan border from my post.”
Lauck is a team leader, managing four soldiers in daily security force duties. The team’s main mission is to provide protection for the provincial reconstruction team.
“It’s a pretty hot area,” Lauck said. “There are always people who want to harm you.”
The reconstruction team and its security force works with schools to get them operating again, works with the provincial governor to provide security and works to protect bridges and roads from enemy attack.
“We secure the area so the reconstruction team can get things done,” he said. “We’re helping make sure that the country gets built back up.”
One mission Lauck said he’s particularly proud of is the team’s efforts to open schools for girls in the region.
“The girls couldn’t go to school under Taliban rule,” he said. “It’s nice to see. That’s where the change has to come from — winning the hearts and minds of the children.”
It’s the same feeling Lauck had when he was deployed in Iraq with Company B last year.
“It’s great to be making a difference in the lives of children,” he said.
During the Christmas holiday last year, Lauck was in Iraq. This year he expected to be in Afghanistan during the holidays, but the birth of his son, Jaxon, on Oct. 25 gave him first crack at coming home for Christmas.
“As soon as I got over to Afghanistan, he was born,” Lauck said. “They asked if I wanted to go home right away, but I wanted to get my feet wet over there first.”
When given the choice to come home to Star Prairie for the holidays instead, he jumped at the chance. He kept his arrival a secret from his kids and they were excited when he arrived on Dec. 20.
Lauck was given 15 days of leave from the military. Then he will return to Afghanistan to finish up his nine-month tour of duty in that country.
When he returns, the family will continue to stay in contact through Facebook and regular telephone calls.
Lauck’s wife, Jessica, said so far she’s been able to manage fairly well in her husband’s absence.
“Jaxon is a very good baby and he sleeps well,” she said. “And his sisters have been very helpful.”
It also helps that they have family and friends close by to help out when needed, and the community has been very supportive as well, Jessica said.
Lauck said he especially wanted to thank the American Legion and VFW posts, who have supported the family during his two deployments. He also wanted to thank Pete’s Pizza and Brother’s Texas Pit for the gift certificates the couple received as a gift.
It’s been a busy couple weeks for the Lauck family. They celebrated Christmas with both sides of the family over the weekend.
Lauck also has pitched in to shovel a bunch of snow.
“I’ve done my fair share of shoveling,” he said. “It’s nice to see the snow, actually. It beats mountains, rocks and dust.”
When Lauck returns home in the middle of 2011, he said he expects to complete his college degree. After that, the family will decide on its future together.
Lauck said he is hoping to become a commissioned officer in the armed services and enter the military full time.
The family would likely have to relocate after that, he said.
Lauck previously served as an active Army soldier for three years. He’s been in the National Guard for several years.
Lauck has been around the military his whole life. His dad, James Lauck Jr., retired as Command Sergeant Major for the 128th.