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The ways of the post-9/11 warriors – and their families

‘Living the Oath’ book focuses on the lives of local soldiers

The book “Living the Oath: Warriors Take It, Families Endure It,” written by Marine mom RaeLynn Ricarte, has 35 chapters and includes stories from 29 warriors and military families, including her own son, USMC Capt. Jesse Atay.

Ricarte, now a reporter with The Dalles Chronicle, wrote for the Hood River News from 2000-2010. She interviewed people from all branches of the military service, and family members, many of whom deal daily with the trauma and grief of war.

She interviewed wives left to care for children and manage households while their husbands were at war — and those whose husbands came home wrestling with the demons of combat.

Copies of “Living the Oath” are available on Amazon.com.

Following are excerpts of narratives by warriors or their relatives with connections to the Hood River area:

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“I am 26 years old and the American taxpayers trust me to fly a $220 million plane; it just doesn’t get any better than that,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Jacob Pruitt, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Jacob Pruitt grew up in Hood River and was urged by anti-war protesters not to join the military and spend his life “killing innocent women and children.” He followed his own sense of purpose after graduating in 2004 and ranked at the top of his class in both college and Air Force training. He now flies the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III on humanitarian missions to countries devastated by natural disasters and transports high-level dignitaries and troops into and out of combat zones.

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“Coming back from Iraq was the toughest time in my marriage but to me, ‘Until death do us part’ was the same as saying, ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution ...’ I chose to go get help because my family is the most important thing in my life,” Oregon National Guard Sgt. Roger Montavon, veteran of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Montavon and his wife, Lee, began experiencing marriage problems after he returned from war in 2005 and began treating her with disrespect and disapproval. His willingness to pick up a phone and call the Veterans Administration for help saved their marriage and they recently celebrated their 25th anniversary.

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“I don’t think there’s a defining moment in your recovery. It’s definitely a lifelong challenge. I tell people who have been seriously wounded that their future is going to depend a lot on how much they want to fight for it,” Christian Bagge, an Oregon National Guard veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sgt. Bagge, who grew up in Mosier, and his wife, Melissa (Eagy), had only been married three months when he lost his legs on June 3, 2005, after a bomb exploded under the vehicle he was traveling in. After going through grueling months of agony to overcome his disability and walk again, Christian and Melissa returned to the Gorge, living first in The Dalles and then moving to Parkdale in 2011 after Homes for Our Troops built a residence to accommodate his mobility challenges.

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“There are times when I want to show people Marc’s picture and ask, ‘Do you know who this is?’ Do you know what he did for you? He gave his life so you can travel and plan for a future that he will never have.’ No American should take that sacrifice for granted,” Debbie Lee, mother of the first Navy SEAL to die in Iraq. Chief Petty Officer Second Class Marc Alan Lee, 28, stood in the line of fire on a rooftop in Ramadi on Aug. 2, 2006, so that his fellow SEALS could get an injured comrade to safety. He went out several hours later for his second mission of the day and turned again into fire as the team once again came under attack. He was killed by a sniper bullet and a memorial service held two weeks later in his hometown of Hood River drew protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

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“I’m a little battered but I am alive, which makes me luckier than a lot of other people,” Oregon National Guard Sgt. Andrew Young, a veteran of Operation New Dawn. After an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) hit the vehicle he was traveling in during a 2010-11 deployment, Young sustained head injuries serious enough to cause memory loss and cognitive thinking impairment. He is still assigned to the Hood River Armory and finds comfort in being around other soldiers who are dealing with the same types of struggles.

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“I think the year in Iraq taught me I can do anything. So much of life is about determination,” Dr. Mary Deighton, Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Deighton, who grew up in Hood River, is learning to find peace after a 2010 deployment that involved exposure to numerous explosions and a brutal rape at the hands of a Jamaican national working for a private military contracting company. She left the active-duty Army in 2012 and became a member of the Oregon National Guard after moving to The Dalles to take a position with Mid-Columbia Medical Center. She recently moved to La Grande.

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“My sons love Daddy and they miss doing things with him; they covet anything that belonged to him. I tell them that I’m not Daddy, I can’t do everything he did, but I’ll do the best I can,” Christina Goetz, wife of first Army chaplain to die at war since the Vietnam conflict. Army Capt. Dale Goetz, 43, the father of three, died in a roadside bomb blast while accompanying soldiers on a mission Aug. 30, 2010, in the Arghanab River Valley of Afghanistan. He was honored in a memorial service in Hood River a few weeks later that was attended by former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Congressman Greg Walden and other dignitaries.

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“A passage by The Art of War by Sun Tzu asks: ‘What is the way of the warrior?’ And replies: ‘The way of the warrior is death.’ Not only do warriors deal out death to those who oppose them, but warriors also die, as we all know. Being a warrior means that no matter what the outcome, death is always the end result for someone and it’s always better them than you but it is a heavy weight to carry nonetheless. Warriors choose the path they follow and while those we love have not chosen the same path, they share the burden,” Cody Standiford, Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spec. Standiford went to war in 2006 and still experiences nightmares about killing other human beings in order to survive. He currently works for U.S. Rep Greg Walden to help veterans.

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