OKANOGAN — “Iraq has a distinct smell, one that I will never be able to get out of my head,” my father tells me. He claims that he still smells it on some of the things that he brought back, but I don’t smell it anymore. When he returned, the smell was everywhere, like old sweat and dirt from thousands of years ago. I just figured it was the smell of war; a sign that he had gone through some of the most dangerous places on Earth and survived.
Joseph Bryson, my father, is a retired sergeant from the Army National Guard. In the service, he was paid as an E5, and worked as an Intel analyst and truck driver. My father joined the military after being suckered in by my uncle when he was 17. “What are you doing for money this summer? Because, you could go to basic training, make $2,000, and get in shape for next year’s wrestling at the same time.”
And that’s when his whole life changed.
After serving about 24 years in the Army National Guard, he had several incredible experiences.
Joe was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. “The most memorable thing about my whole military career was watching my wife waving at the plane as we flew away.”
As his daughter, I remember the deployment and all of the hard things that our whole family went through. My father was deployed for 18 months and missed my two oldest brothers’ graduations, my first day of school, and the first two of my younger brother’s birthdays.
The deployment changed how he looked at life and all of the precious things that it has to offer. As a whole family, we gained tons of respect for all military families, especially those in the active-duty.
When asked how his military experience changed him, he replied, “In the end, my military experience was a positive experience for me. At the time of my life that I joined, I needed some direction. It also helped to build my patience; I used to have a bad temper. I learned all kinds of neat things and got to travel all over the world. I don’t remember the bad times, only the good. After I was deployed, I started to take the monthly drills more seriously. I couldn’t just go through the motions like we did before; it all became more of a reality.”
Joe finally retired in December of 2005, and went to work for Ferrellgas, a propane delivery company. Today, he keeps in contact with some of the people he served with through Facebook. His final comments were, “There were good days, and bad days, but it was a very worthwhile experience. I was very proud to serve this country, and all of the people who live in it.”
Kendra Bryson, 15, is a sophomore at Okanogan High School.