Hudson servicemen enjoy being home for the holidaysPrivates Joey Lawler, Grant Richie and Mitch Smith spent a lot of time together between their arrival home in mid-December and the return of two of them to duty early this week.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Privates Joey Lawler, Grant Richie and Mitch Smith spent a lot of time together between their arrival home in mid-December and the return of two of them to duty early this week.
“We don’t really know when we’re going to see each other next,” explained Richie. “We’re going this way and that.”
“It could be years,” Lawler said of their next reunion.
The three 2009 Hudson High School graduates each signed up for the military under the delayed entry program. They went off to boot camp last summer, and through a stroke of good luck were able to return home on leave at the same time.
Lawler, the son of Robin and Tim Carroll, is a Marine.
Richie and Smith are in the Army. Their parents are Terri and Kevin Richie and Chris and Tim Smith.
Lawler and Smith grew up in Houlton and have been friends since their days at Houlton Elementary School.
Richie, whose parents live in North Hudson, became friends with Lawler when the two were assigned to the same sixth-grade homeroom at Hudson Middle School.
Smith and Richie got acquainted at Hudson High School, but their relationship deepened when, by chance, they ended up in the same basic training platoon at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
With some maneuvering (standing next to each other in a line at the reception center), they were assigned to be battle buddies and bunked together. Richie had the top bunk, and Smith, the bottom.
Basic training battle buddies are required to stick together wherever they go on base.
“It was pretty cool having someone you know in your platoon,” said Smith. “You knew if you ever got in an argument or a fight with someone, you always had someone on your side.”
Smith arrived at Fort Leonard Wood on July 22, 2009, five days earlier than Richie. But for some reason, the group of soldiers Smith arrived with had to stay at the reception center longer than Richie’s group.
He recalled walking down a hall in a line one day and spotting Richie, who had recently arrived on base.
“You can’t really say anything,” Smith explained, but he whispered “Grant” and was able to catch Richie’s attention.
“It was kind of funny when I first saw him. He looked kind of nervous,” Smith said with a chuckle.
Smith and Richie both chose to become military policemen when they signed contracts in the fall of 2008 committing themselves to five years of active duty in the Army.
They completed nine weeks of basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, followed by 10 weeks of military police training.
“I thought it was fun,” Smith said of basic training. “I mean, it was hard, but it definitely was not as hard as I thought it would be.”
Smith left Monday for a year’s deployment in South Korea.
Richie has returned to Fort Leonard Wood, where he is awaiting departure to airborne school at Fort Benning, Ga.
He’ll go to Fort Campbell, Ky., after learning to parachute, but doesn’t expect to be there long.
Richie and Smith were told when they arrived at basic training that there is a big demand for MPs overseas and that the chance of them being deployed was 100 percent.
That doesn’t bother the 18-year-olds.
Other soldiers like his dad, who served in the First Gulf War, have done their duty, Smith said. “We’ve got to do our part.”
“It’s our turn,” Richie agreed.
Smith said he enlisted for the adventure and out of patriotism.
Richie said college didn’t appeal to him, and the things he heard about the Army from his sister Cara, a veteran, sounded good.
Lawler, also 18, expects and hopes to be deployed to Afghanistan after he completes a month of assisting the U.S. Marine Corps recruiters based in Woodbury, Minn.
“I want to do multiple tours – get deployed a lot,” he said.
Unlike his Army buddies, Lawler found his 13-week boot camp experience at San Diego to be even tougher than he imagined it would be.
“There’s no way to describe what (boot) camp is like,” he said. “People tell stories and I thought I had a good idea of what it was going to be like. I just got blindsided.”
He recalled wondering why his mother let him sign up for the Corps.
Lawler weighed 200 pounds going into boot camp and 165 pounds at the end.
“I wasn’t up to their requirements. I had to work harder than most of the guys had to on the physical requirements,” he said.
But as the weeks passed, Lawler’s mind and body hardened.
“In the end, it was probably the best decision I ever made – by far,” he said of enlisting. “I was proud of my decision.”
Lawler’s military occupation is field artilleryman. He’s trained to be a radar-control operator for a cannon that shoots 40-millimeter rounds 20 miles down range.
He tracks the rounds that are fired for accuracy. The incoming rounds fired by the enemy are tracked, too, so a counter-attack can be launched.
All three young men said they’re enjoying the military and are looking forward to serving their country.
“The Marines instill a lot of values that are good for life,” Lawler said.
He said he’s gained self-confidence and discipline.