Husband and wife Demetrious and Valerie Vaughn estimate they’ve been able to spend about 40 days together between July 4 and Friday. Now, they are about to part company once again thanks to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Valerie Vaughn, a medic with the Louisiana National Guard’s 756th Area Support Medical Company, arrived in Louisiana on July 4 following a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan; on Friday, her husband’s Louisiana
National Guard unit held a deployment ceremony.
A combat engineer, Staff Sgt. Demetrious Vaughn will be leaving Monday to spend a year in Afghanistan as part of the 927th Engineer Company of the 769th Engineer Battalion.
His job? Clearing roadside bombs.
The Vaughns, of Baton Rouge, said Friday it’s all part of who they are and what they do.
“I’ve been deployed before, so for me it’s a rerun. I wear the uniform. I swallowed this pill a long time ago,” Demetrious Vaughn, 34, said Friday morning while waiting for the deployment ceremony to begin at the Bethany World Prayer Center. It marks his second tour in Afghanistan following a deployment there in 2003-2004.
Valerie Vaughn, who is studying to be a nurse at Southern University, said the couple’s four children — ages 4, 6, 7 and 12 — grew accustomed to their father being around while she was gone, so there will be an adjustment for them.
“But they (understand) what we do,” Valerie Vaughn, 32, said.
“They talked to mom on Skype; now they will have to talk to dad on Skype,” Demetrious Vaughn said.
The Vaughns are the type of people Maj. Gen. Glenn H. Curtis, adjutant general for the Louisiana National Guard, characterized Friday as his favorite Americans.
“You just go and you don’t ask why,” Curtis told the more than 90 soldiers and their families Friday during a send-off speech at the ceremony.
“I know deployments are tough for families, “Curtis said. “It’s harder being the family left at home. You always worry. Remember, most of the time, your loved ones are safe.”
Curtis said the biggest way families back at home can support their loved ones overseas is to stay in touch.
The company will conduct mobilization training at Fort Bliss, Texas, before deploying to Afghanistan.
PFC Kevin Knippers, 30, a Baton Rouge firefighter, is among those being deployed. His wife, 29-year-old Marcy Knippers, is the secretary to the chief of the Central Fire Department.
Marcy Knippers will be holding down the home front with the couple’s three children while her husband is in Afghanistan.
Kevin Knippers, like Demetrious Vaughn, has been overseas before. He went to Iraq in 2002 with a different Louisiana National Guard unit.
“The toughest part will be us missing him,” Marcy Knippers said after Friday’s ceremony.
Kevin Knippers, like many soldiers who serve their country, will miss certain family milestones while he is gone. He won’t be there for his 10th wedding anniversary. Nor will he be around for his 11-month-old child’s first birthday.
“But he loves his job. He really likes what he does,” Marcy Knippers said.
Marcy Knippers said the year will be stressful. Her husband’s job is dangerous.
“Yeah. We go looking for them (bombs) and hopefully find them before they find us,” Kevin Knippers said.
The company is commanded by Capt. James Hoover.
Hoover said after the ceremony that the toughest part of his job is what he doesn’t know right now.
“As leaders, we like to think we have all the answers. We train hard, all of us, and we know what we’re doing. But there are some things we won’t know until we get there,” Hoover said.
Hoover said his soldiers are excellent at what they do.
“They are tremendous professionals and I can’t wait to work with them,” Hoover said.