Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
By Jean Doran Matua
When the Red Bulls returned from Iraq some weeks ago, there were several local men among them: Lewis Hoskins, Joe Sequest, Brian Theis, and Dave Markgraf.
We first met Markgraf when he and his brother Rob were preparing to ship off at about the same time, just after Thanksgiving 2004. Both did their tours, and both returned safe and sound.
Dave first served in the Persian Gulf in 1994, when he was in the Navy, during the Gulf War. He joined the National Guard, and was called to Iraq in 2004. His most recent tour was as company commander at batallion headquarters in Basra, Iraq. His company was responsible for logistics, operations and maintenance for the base and division headquarters.
Dave said it was hard to compare the two tours tours. In 2004 he spent much of his time patrolling, interacting with locals. This last time he was mostly on base, and his interaction with locals was more limited to the 3,000 or so who worked on base. Dave noted that it was much calmer in Iraq during his last tour than it was in 2004.
The average temperature in Iraq is 116, although it sometimes reaches 123-125 degrees.
"You get used to it," said Dave. "It feels like 95."
As company commander, Dave was responsible for more than 200 people under him.
"I liked being company commander, making decisions and being part of more than 200 lives, and being a mentor, a leader of that group," said Markgraf. He added that he hoped he had improved the lives of these men and women, most of whom were younger than he.
Dave is enjoying his time away now. "It's nice to be able to relax and not have that worry," he said.
Dave noted that he was home on leave for two weeks last November, but still got phone calls and e-mails from Iraq. Returning after leave was a bit easier, he said, since he had a short time to count down until his return home for good, a few months later.
When Dave left home in 2004, he and his wife Jessica had a young son and another baby on the way. In one sense, it was easier to leave then. When he left home in 2009, he was leaving two children who were no longer infants, 5-year-old Jacob and 3-year-old Hannah. That was truly the hardest thing for him to do.
Communicating with his family was much easier this last time. They could, instant-message, phone calls were relatively easy and more frequent, and e-mail was quicker this time around. This all helped a little to ease the pains of separation. It also helped that there was less violence in general during this tour, and less worry about daily safety.
"I'm thrilled to have him home," said Jessica.
Jessica had quit her job before Dave was deployed to Iraq last year. She stayed home for the summer with the kids.
"It was harder than I thought," she said.
In September, Jessica went back to school to become a speech therapist.
Now that he's back at home, Jessica shared that she's sometimes frustrated and annoyed that it's hard to get her kids to listen to her. They always listen to their dad. That's kids for you.
Both Dave and Jessica expressed their gratitude for support from home: packages, prayers, help with chores, all were a big help.
Both urge continued support of those in the military.
"Some people don't know they have neighbors deployed," said Jessica. "They need to share with their neighbors so they can help [with snowblowing and such]"
It's more important to help the families, she added.
The Markgraf's feel blessed for the help they received from family, friends and neighbors with things like fixing the roof and car, or providing daycare.
"It was really awesome," said Jessica.
While some might call Dave a "Hometown Hero" for serving his country, Dave might pass that honor on to his wife Jessica who was a "hero" here at home during his deployment..