The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

August 24, 2012

Clinton High teacher to deploy with National Guard

CLINTON — Each day since March, Clinton High School Science Department Chairman Wes Golden moved a little farther from his role as a science teacher and a little closer to becoming Lt. Colonel Golden of the Iowa Army National Guard.  

Golden carries the two identities with him as one everyday, they are two of many roles he plays and critical to his character. It wasn’t until March of this year that Golden knew exactly how pronounced the latter would become.  The 40-year-old teacher, father, husband, coach and mentor will head to Afghanistan on Tuesday to begin a nearly one-year deployment.

“I don’t want to leave, but I have to. The thing about guardsmen is, we’ve got a civilian job and civilian life and a military job and a military life,” he said.

“My life is spent focused on my family, being a teacher and being a cross country coach. The other side of that is I’m also in the military and that’s quite a division. Sometimes one takes over the other and that’s whats happening right now.”

Golden was training at Fort Lee in Virgina last year when he was informed he would be deployed.

“I was eating supper when I got the call. You know what’s coming,” the Iraq War veteran said.  

After calling fellow military members, Golden immediately called his wife, Kristina.

“My wife is extremely supportive of me and what I do. She understands, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Golden said. “When somebody goes away and especially someone you’ve been a part of for awhile, it’s tough.”

“When a loved one gets deployed I think you experience a wide range of emotions, from the initial shock, to anxiety over his or her’s safety, to sadness, etc., and not necessarily in that order,” Kristina said.

The two have been married for 18 years, but even before Golden made the pledge to his wife, he made a pledge to the military. He joined the Navy Reserves in 1992 before being given the opportunity to transfer to the Army ROTC during college. Ultimately, Golden joined the  Iowa Army National Guard in 1997, shortly before coming to CHS as a teacher and coach.

“I am proud of Wes.  Our American freedoms aren’t free, and choosing to preserve those freedoms requires sacrifice. I support him, in his decision, and I understand the sacrifices involved,” Kristina said.

After receiving word, Golden remained training in Virginia for two weeks before returning home.  Even then, he kept the list of those who knew about his deployment short.  

“I really didn’t tell anybody. I don’t want to get people spun up.  We could have been de-notified.  I don’t want to put people through that emotional roller coaster ride,” he said.

After receiving final confirmation in March of this year, Golden invited family over for a cookout to share the news. The following week he told the CHS faculty.

“I tried to remain as even keeled as I possibly can, that’s part of being a leader,” Golden said.

CHS Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said Golden’s positive attitude and creative thinking will be severely missed while he’s overseas.

“Wes Golden is a model teacher.  He builds outstanding relationships. That confident presence is hard to replace,” she said. “It’s nice to know that people like that are taking care of us.”

Even before he was given the final confirmation he would be deployed, Golden thought about the possibility of being sent overseas again.

“I think you always think about it, especially in the last 11 years,” he said.  The events of Sept. 11, 2001 have left their mark on the United States military, with the 7,400-member Iowa Army National Guard being no exception.

“It’s changed the way we train.  You know that what you’re doing could very well be used in the real deal,” he said. “A lot of my friends have done two tours, some have done three.  I knew it was my turn.”

From 2003 to 2004, Golden served in Iraq among the first group of men and women to enter the war after the initial invasion in March 2003. He was given little notice of the deployment.

“This deployment is different from his last deployment in many, many ways.  First of all, we were given more advance notice of his departure, which has helped a great deal,” Kristina said.

While in Afghanistan, Golden will be in a logistics unit that will command and control subordinate units providing maintenence and clean water, among other things.  

During his time in Iraq, Golden was a Captain and company commander of the 1555th quarter master detachment.  His company provided purified water in Baghdad.  In his new role, he will be commanding similar subordinate companies to the one he served in eight years ago.  

This departure is also different Kristina said, because the dynamics of the family have changed.  During his first deployment, Golden was the father of one 14-month old daughter, Prushia.  Now 10 years old, Prushia has a younger sister, 5-year-old Adelais.

“For me, this deployment is unlike his last deployment in that we only had one child at that time, and she was an infant.  She has no memory of his previous absence.  During this deployment we have two children, who are old enough to understand, feel, and remember the void of this temporary absence,” Kristina said.  

Golden taught his last day Thursday before being deployed and has been trying to spend as much time with his wife and children as he can in the few days he has left in Iowa for nearly a year.

The family isn’t taking any special trips or planning special events in the weeks and days before he leaves.   

“I don’t want to make it contrived,” he said. “I say, if you want to play a game, lets play a game.  If you want to sit here and watch cartoons, lets watch cartoons.  If you want to go for a walk, let’s go for a walk.”

Golden said one of the most difficult parts of being away will be missing Thanksgiving, Christmas and his family members’ birthdays.

“When I was in Iraq, the hardest day I had was my oldest daughter’s birthday,” he said.

To keep in touch during Iraq, Golden wrote letters and had a close friend read them to his then 2-year-old daughter.  This time he will continue to write letters and call as much as he can, even using skype when possible.

“Hearing my children’s voices will be as important to me as it will be for them to hear my voice,” he said.

Kristina plans to take the girls to visit extended family and keep in touch with Wes to the fullest extent all of their lives will allow.

“Our family’s strategy for coping, during this deployment, is to try to stay as connected to Wes as possible.  We are lucky, in that, we live in an age that contains so many more options and forms of communication, to and from deployed military family members,” Kristina said.

Being deployed, Golden said in addition to his family he’ll still be thinking about students and cross country athletes. However, with other teachers like Tony Smith, who will be coaching cross country this year and Jason McEwen who will serve as the science chair, the Clinton native said his worries will be minimal.

“I am a River King through and through so I’m very passionate about this place, but I can’t worry about it because I will have enough to worry about when I’m deployed,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have an amazing department.  That’s the nice thing to say, but it’s the truth.”

“The heroes aren’t necessarily the folks that go over.  We know we’re going to have to do this.  We volunteered, we signed up for this. No one drafted us.  The only way I can do my job over there is when awesome people step up and take my place here.  They’re as much to praise as any one who goes over,” he said.

Brook Lohmeier, who will be teaching Golden’s classes during this school year said she’s ready for the challenge, but remains realistic.

“There will never be anyone who can fill his shoes,” Lohmeier said. “I think it’s amazing what he’s doing. Everyone who knows him should be proud to know him.”

Activities Director Gary Lueders said while he’s confident in Smith’s ability to lead cross country, Golden’s absence will be felt no less.

“He’s a big part of Clinton High,” Lueders said. “He will leave a huge void in his absence as a teacher, as a coach and as a mentor.”

Golden will go on active duty on Saturday and leave for Des Moines on Sunday.  The following day he will see some of his troops off before he is deployed Tuesday following a send-off ceremony.  

He remains humble about the sacrifices he’s made, in part because of the amazing support he’s received and because of the others who also deserve recognition, he said.   

“There are a lot of heroes walking around the streets of Clinton and Iowa and the United States and they come in many forms. It’s important to know they are as important as anybody else.” Golden said. “There are amazing people like those who have served or supported someone who has served. I hope people remember the children and the spouses and the employers and the service men and women who do this. We should all be greatful. I am.”

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