Called to Serve

Fol­low­ing or­ders to Alaska, I got to see how beau­ti­ful my coun­try is.

Country - - PEOPLE - BY CALEB HUR­LEY

s a coun­try boy from the small town of Su­gar Grove, Penn­syl­va­nia, I never imag­ined where my Air Force ca­reer would take me.

With my par­ents’ bless­ing, I joined the mil­i­tary at age 17. Af­ter ba­sic train­ing, I learned how to be a heavy-equip­ment op­er­a­tor, or “dirt­boy,” at tech school.

My first duty sta­tion was Osan, South Korea, where I spent a year. Two of my most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences there in­cluded spend­ing a day with chil­dren at an or­phan­age and go­ing to the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone. While in Korea, I re­ceived new or­ders that took me to Alaska.

Many peo­ple wait a life­time to go to Alaska, but I got there as a young air­man. I ar­rived at Eiel­son Air Force Base in March 2008. That June I mar­ried Eileen and brought her to Alaska. What an ad­ven­ture for a pair of new­ly­weds!

Dur­ing my first year of mar­riage, I was away from my wife for six months due to jobs out on the Blair Lakes bomb­ing range. I was picked for the team that would build an ice bridge across the par­tially frozen Tanana River. The mil­i­tary needed to get equip­ment to the range, where we main­tained the grounds and the airstrip.

AAlaska was good to us. Eileen and I were blessed with won­der­ful friends and a great church in North Pole, where we lived. In the fall of 2009, I de­ployed to Afghanistan in sup­port of Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom, where my job was to work with the Afghan peo­ple and my Red Horse (heavy con­struc­tion) unit as we built and re­paired airstrips. I re­turned home the next spring.

The sum­mer of 2010 was full of fun and ad­ven­ture. My in-laws flew in from Mary­land, and we took them on a tour of Alaska from North Pole to Valdez, Se­ward, Homer and An­chor­age. They saw what beauty God cre­ated in the moun­tains, rivers and wildlife.

Af­ter my in-laws re­turned to Mary­land, my par­ents and younger sib­lings vis­ited. My dad grew up in Fair­banks, so it was neat for him to show me the changes and the old fa­mil­iar places. I also en­joyed hunt­ing and fish­ing with friends.

The most dan­ger­ous ad­ven­ture was dip net­ting on the Cop­per River in Chitina. We took ATVs up a nar­row trail, rapelled down a 200-foot cliff and tied our­selves to a tree or rock so we wouldn’t get pulled into the river swells. The dan­ger was worth the 54 salmon we put up in our freez­ers.

In March 2011, my first child, a son we named Micah, was born. Dur­ing this time, I was pre­par­ing for a per­ma­nent move to my next duty sta­tion. That May, I loaded up the truck and drove my fam­ily from North Pole to Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada. Driv­ing along the Alaska High­way through the Yukon Ter­ri­tory, Bri­tish Columbia and Al­berta, Canada, was just an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

When God called me to serve my coun­try, I never knew I would go to such gor­geous places.

Ju­nior air­man Micah shares a hug with Dad at the base in Las Ve­gas.

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