Tammy Sebasty holds a portrait of her son, Chad, who is returning U.S. from his first deployment in Afghanistan today. (Daily Star photo/KATIE JOHNSON)
Tammy Sebasty holds a portrait of her son, Chad, who is returning U.S. from his first deployment in Afghanistan today. (Daily Star photo/KATIE JOHNSON)

Archived Story

Tammy’s soldier: Son to return to U.S. on Thanksgiving

Published 6:00am Thursday, November 26, 2009

By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star

Tammy Sebasty tears up as she gazes at her son’s framed portrait and talks about his service in Afghanistan.

“He came home in fourth grade and said he would join the Army,” she said. The family figured it was a passing childhood whim, like growing up to become a firefighter or police officer or other career hero.

“It never changed,” Sebasty said. “He just said it’s something in his soul he had to do.”
The Galien resident, also the mother of Jason, 28, and Becky, 25, has a common bond with other military moms.

Her 23-year-old son, Chad, enlisted at age 21, fulfilling a childhood dream. Sebasty is proud of her soldier, the only person in her family to serve in the Army.

But his safety is a constant concern.

“Very proud of him, but scared as all get out,” is how she describes it.

The Sebastys will receive a welcome Thanksgiving gift today – their son will be returning to the United States, to Fort Drum, N.Y.

Dream fulfilled
Sebasty and her husband, Dwight, recognized when Chad was in high school that his military goals weren’t merely lofty ambitions. The one requirement his mother had was that he wait until his 21st birthday to enlist, in case he found “something else.”

Chad graduated from Galien High School in 2004 and began work.

His dream, however, was hampered at age 21 when he was not accepted to the military. He only hears at 35 percent capacity in one ear, and had just sustained a severe ankle injury.

“For six months every Friday after work, he went to the see the recruiter,” Sebasty said.
He was eventually accepted to the Army, and went to basic training in Fort Benning, Ga. He is stationed in Fort Drum, N.Y., and began his first deployment in Afghanistan in January 2009.

“We was at the very top of a mountain; it was a new base,” she said. Mail was flown by helicopter up to his base, but Sebasty knows little else about his location.

“I think they’ve settled down a little more in Iraq,” she said. “Afghanistan is really, really hot.”

Sebasty said that, essentially, Chad’s job was “tracking down al-Qaeda – the Taliban.”
In December, he is scheduled to return to Fort Drum to become a platoon leader, about three weeks earlier than the rest of his comrades. He will also come back to Michigan for a few days around Christmas.

Chad wants to begin training next fall in the U.S. Army Rangers, considered some of the most elite combat soldiers in the world. Chad told his mother not to research anything about what Rangers do – it is best she not know. He said that someday he would like to become a drill sergeant or recruiter.

The Sebastys have learned that their son’s first deployment will not be last – he is scheduled for deployment again in 16 to 18 months. Chad’s destination is unknown at this time.

A Blue Star mother
Seeking camaraderie with fellow military families and a way to help out the soldiers, Sebasty became one of about 35 members in Blue Star Mothers Chapter 177, based in Stevensville.

The group – which is not limited to only parents of soldiers or veterans – has many duties, one of which is to present the family of Daniel Frazier, who was killed Nov. 19 in Afghanistan, with a Gold Star.

They also make special clothing for soldiers who have lost limbs, and volunteer at VA hospitals.

“Our biggest thing is sending boxes to deployed soldiers,” she said.

The organization is continuously seeking donations for their boxes, which include food, toiletries and entertainment items, like playing cards, comics, puzzles, CDs and cameras.
Sebasty helps other soldiers while waiting for her own soldier to return home. Chad is very up-front with his mother about his situation.

“No news is good news – as long as there’s not three guys in uniform in your driveway, you’re fine,” he told her.

To learn more about the Blue Star Mothers of America Inc. Charles Baldwin Chapter 177, or to donate, call President Marie Hartline at (269) 925-4123. Meetings are the third Sunday of each month at 5 p.m. in the North Lincoln Center in St. Joseph.

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