ROTC Alumni Spend Holidays Far From Home
OGDEN, Utah – Unlike years past, U.S. Army Major Matt Garner won't be cutting down a fresh Christmas tree with his family this year. That's because the Weber State University alumnus will spend the holiday in Afghanistan.
At a time of year when most gather with friends and family, Garner is just one of the many WSU Army ROTC alumni who will spend this holiday season overseas on active duty.
WSU ROTC alumnus Maj. Matt Garner poses in front of the holiday decorations in his office in Afghanistan. Garner is preparing to spend the holiday season on active duty in Afghanistan.
Garner, who graduated from WSU in 1990 and later served as a recruiting officer and assistant professor for WSU's ROTC program, has been in Afghanistan since July. His assignment as commander of the 4th Public Affairs Detachment out of Fort Hood, Texas, was recently extended through May. He's not sure what to expect on Christmas day, but predicts it will be pretty routine with "a little bit of Christmas stuff."
"Have you seen the movie "Groundhog Day?"," Garner said in an e-mail interview. "That is the best way to describe life here. I generally do not leave an area that is less than one mile in diameter."
Garner's team has brightened their office with Christmas decorations family and friends have sent. The family of one soldier sent gifts for everyone in the eight-person unit. The group plans to open those presents together on Christmas, but Garner said he doesn't dwell too much on the holidays because it reminds him how far away he is from his family. Half a world away in Texas, his wife Karen and their three children will gather with his sister and her family.
Garner is not the only WSU grad in Afghanistan. Major Darin Williams, who is with the 19th Special Forces out of Camp Williams, was a track athlete at Weber State and graduated with Garner. Today the two run into each other on a regular basis as part of their assignments in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Jack Sturgeon, military science professor at WSU, keeps track of WSU officers' assignments and whereabouts. He's heard from WSU alumni serving in Iraq, Korea and Afghanistan, many of whom will spend the holidays in those hot spots.
"Given the nature of the world today, the officers we've commissioned this year will soon be deploying to some of these hot spots in the world," Sturgeon said. Those include eight officers commissioned at WSU's commencement ceremonies held earlier this month. Sturgeon added that some of his cadets had to put their education on hold because they were called up to active duty this past semester.
Garner and Williams are not the only WSU grads to cross paths in Afghanistan.
"I was waiting for church to start last Sunday and I recognized another major who came up from Kabul for the day to attend services," Garner said. Turns out the officer graduated from WSU in 1991, a year after Garner was commissioned.