December 11, 2008


Homer soldier returns for surprise lunch

Guardsman stationed in Afghanistan has lunch with his brother at Homer Intermediate

SoldierBob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer soldier Jason Barrows spends time speaking with students during lunch at the Homer Intermediate School Wednesday afternoon. Barrows has served in Afghanistan with the Army.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — After serving nine months in Afghanistan, Pfc. Jason Barrows of the Army National Guard jumped at the chance to get home early and surprise his family.
Along with his mother, Denise Stevens, Barrows stepped into Homer Intermediate School at noon Wednesday for an unexpected reunion with his younger brother Richard Stevens, who did not expect him to return until January.
Richard, 11, was grinning with surprise as he embraced his brother and they sat down for lunch.
“We’ll have a good Christmas this year, with all the kids together,” Denise said as they sat in the school cafeteria. “I was ecstatic to hear he was coming home.”
Barrows, 26, was stationed at Camp Phoenix in Kabul with the National Guard 27th Brigade Combat Team as a convoy machine gunner. He returned home Tuesday evening.
He volunteered to return early since two soldiers from each platoon are allowed to leave one month early.
Serving in the military had been on Barrows’ mind ever since he was in kindergarten. Once he enlisted, he said his plan was to do his duty, and use the educational benefits of service to get a job.
“Sports has been my life,” he said. “I want to be able to go to a job I enjoy.”
With his military service behind him, Barrows says he hopes to move on with his education starting at a community college and then transfer to a SUNY school, and get a degree as a physical education teacher.
“Sports has been my life,” he said. “I want to be able to go to a job I enjoy.”
As a machine gunner in a Humvee, Barrows said his primary duty while patrolling in convoys was to ensure no cars or people came within 30 meters in any direction. He also participated in escort missions for high-ranking officers, and saw combat on several occasions.
“I was nervous my first time in combat, but eager to get to work,” Barrows said. “I was a little scared (of getting shot at), but it was anxiety more than anything else.”
Barrows feels he was able to handle the intensity of combat and being fired upon easier because training helped prepare his mindset.
“In the time I spent over there, with the mental strain, I’ve kept it together,” he said. “Time goes by quick when you’re over there, because we work a routine every day.”
Denise Stevens said one of her biggest fears was that an enemy might kidnap her son.
Barrows said serving in Afghanistan generated plenty of “culture shock” for him.
“It made me appreciate what we have here,” he said. “In Afghanistan, the coffee is like axle grease.”
“I love that soda machine so much now,” he said, pointing to a cafeteria soda machine.
But there are other aspects of daily life, which took some getting used to, he said.
For instance, Afghani women are not allowed to drive.
“Women are treated as second-class citizens,” he said.
He also recalled one instance when he was driving along a one-way street, and nearly collided with a civilian car coming in the opposite direction.
After seeing their culture first-hand, Barrows said he feels most Americans misjudge Afghanistan.
“People here may hate them, but I think they really hate Osama bin Laden,” he said.
Some of the citizens have to make do with what they have, which is not much, he added.
“They don’t have our resources over there, like education,” Barrows said.
Richard, a four-year defensive guard for the junior high school football team wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
With her son returned home, Denise Stevens said she plans a big weekend dinner to welcome him back.
“I’m proud of my sons, they are who they are,” Stevens said.


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