FAIRBANKS - Spc. James Tucker came home from Afghanistan to family that outranked him, or at least outranked him in the Lathrop High School Junior Army ROTC.
Daughters Molly and Ashley Borum were waiting for him in uniform Wednesday morning when he returned from his yearlong deployment with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Division. Molly, a freshman at Lathrop, wore a sergeant rank insignia. Ashley, a sophomore, is a command major sergeant.
The family comes from the town of Harrisburg in southern Illinois and moved up to Fairbanks after Tucker was assigned here in 2008.
The girls said they like the Interior and being in the ROTC although neither have immediate plans to follow in their father’s Army footsteps after high school. Molly said she has considered the Air Force.
“They did not have anything like this back in Southern Illinois,” Tucker’s wife, Rebecca, said. “They’ve jumped in there and done really well.”
Tucker has an interesting military career with service in the first Gulf War followed by 16 years of civilian life. When civilian opportunities dried up in Southern Illinois, he re-enlisted in 2008.
During the Afghanistan deployment he was a truck driver for the Brigade Troops Battalion in the remote Forward Operating Base Shoja where Internet access was sporadic.
“This has probably been one of the hardest deployments,” Rebecca said.
Elsewhere in the crowd on Monday afternoon, the three children of Staff Sgt. Patrick Smith wore another kind of uniform, coordinated T-shirts with a dog tag illustration and the message “I love my Daddy” and “Our hero is home.”
They had the shirts made at a kiosk at Bentley Mall because they wanted to do something special for their dad, their mother, Jamaica Smith, said.
Jamaica Smith is a former soldier herself who met her husband when they were both headed to South Korea with the Army. She texted him as the soldiers arrived to get a better sense of where he would be in the formation.
“My nerves just went to level 10,” she said.
More than 4,000 members of the Stryker brigade left Fairbanks last year for their deployment in Afghanistan. Flights of soldiers are now returning to Fairbanks on an almost daily basis. A total of about 400 soldiers returned Wednesday in two flights.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545.