If you read the Parkdale column on a regular basis you know that our oldest son, Camden Ball, has been deployed to Afghanistan with the United States Army since last November.
On Father’s Day he returned to Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma, along with 249 fellow soldiers. Our family traveled to base to see him return and we were rewarded with the best Father’s Day present ever: our son and sibling home in the United States, safe and sound.
When Camden followed us home to Parkdale for a few days he spent some time talking with us about his experiences. He told us, “We were lucky; we had several close calls.”
He lost a buddy he’d known since boot camp when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove through their guard of a 25-year-old diplomat delivering schoolbooks to children in Qalat, Afghanistan. His friend was 25 years old, married, with a son and daughter.
Little did our son realize that we were home watching the nightly news and when we saw that big red dot on the city of Qalat, our hearts stopped briefly, knowing he was stationed there and that security detail was the kind of job he was doing while deployed.
When this kind of tragedy strikes, the military shuts down all forms of outside communication for three days while families are notified. It was a tough time for us until he got word to us he was OK.
He told us that after the bombing he helped donate blood and load injured onto helicopters for transport.
At the time we thought that was a horrific war experience for him, but just three days later the Boston Marathon bombings happened and Americans experienced that same horror here at home.
This war has been an educational and humbling experience for our family as in spite of our personal beliefs our son joined the Army to serve his country and we became involved with supporting him.
Our son has learned how to fly the Raven drone, speak Pashtu, the language of southern Afghanistan, and last fall made the rank of sergeant just two years and one month with the Army.
We are very proud of everything he has accomplished and of him serving our country, and extremely thankful he is home safely.
It’s our hope that all of our soldiers in this war return home to their loved ones the same way as ours has.
Tamara Emler Ball is Parkdale News correspondent for the Hood River News.