Friday, July 2, 2010

Inside the life, sacrifices of an Iraq war soldier

By Joanie Cox

Published in Boca Raton Forum

June 30, 2010

“Freedom isn’t free.”


Every Fourth of July weekend, I gather with my family at my uncle Raul’s house to chow down on barbecue and set off some fireworks. Our Boca Pointe neighbor Harvey Hurvitz usually brings over enough skirt steaks to feed half of Palm Beach County and my aunt JD typically breaks out her guitar to strum a patriotic song. However none of that would be possible without the thousands of men and women who continue to put their life on the line in a foreign land while we enjoy our time with our families safe at home.

One of those men is Brian DeSantis. The 28-year-old National Guardsman who lives in Palm Beach Gardens recently returned from Iraq for a two week rest and relaxation leave. Then, it’s back to Iraq for another mission. He’s typically a humvee driver during night missions. Stateside, he’s a Riviera Beach Police officer.

“Iraq is so different from when I was there in 2003. The deeper you get into Iraq, the better the living and dining facilities get because we’ve already done so much work over there,” says DeSantis, who has been a soldier for 10 years. “Back then, I didn’t get to take a shower for three months.”

The hardest part of each mission is leaving behind his young son and daughter and his mom’s Puerto Rican cooking. “I often listen to Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ when I’m leaving,” DeSantis says. “I’m hoping to be back by Christmas. Facebook and Skype has definitely helped me stay in touch with my family though.” DeSantis has a digital camera filled with images of his time in Kuwait. “My first digital camera was destroyed by a piece of shrapnel after a roadside bomb hit our vehicle,” DeSantis says as he points to an image of a massive welt on his arm. “The force of the impact was so intense the camera strapped on my shoulder actually helped save my arm.”

Spiders have also been a problem for military personnel stationed in the Middle East. “I haven’t really seen any snakes, but tons of spiders,” DeSantis says. “They’re sandy colored and the size of tarantulas. There are also tons of mosquitoes.”

On some of the bases, such as Balad, DeSantis says they have a few luxuries of home like Taco Bell and Starbucks, but it’s mostly the same foods scheduled each week. “Friday nights are Mongolian barbecue night; then we’ll have a fajita night,” DeSantis says.

DeSantis isn’t sure where he’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July, but he’s certain of how. “I’m fighting a battle today so hopefully my son won’t have to 10 years from now,” he says. “Having an opportunity to do my part to make a better future for my children and the children of this country is definitely worth it.” Let freedom ring, brother.

BBQ Beats: 10 patriotic songs to keep you pumped on July 4th

American Soldier” Toby Keith

Independence Day” Martina McBride

Thanks To The Brave” JD Danner

Have You Forgotten?” Darryl Worley

American Saturday Night” Brad Paisley

Only In America” Brooks and Dunn

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" Alan Jackson

"Keep on Rocking In A Free World" Neil Young

"America the Beautiful" Ray Charles

"Star Spangled Banner" Jimi Hendrix