I was born in Chanute, Arkansas, in 1980. My father is Gary and my mother is Linda. She recently remarried and moved to Colorado. My father lives in Oregon. We lived in Arkansas on a farm for awhile, but I was too small to remember it, Then we moved to a farm near Audubon, Iowa and when I was in 4th grade, we came to Osceola, where I finished my schooling and graduated in 1999. I have two older sisters, Shari and Becki, both married and each has two kids. I have an older brother, Stephen, who did four years of active duty in the Army. In the Gulf War, he was in Desert Stoma. He currently works in the Security Department of Terrible's Lakeside Casino and part-time at Solutions doing classes, repair work, and building computers. I have a twin brother John, who went to Oklahoma Christian College. He graduated after six years with three minor degrees and a major in Youth Ministry. He still works full time on campus in maintenance.

Like most twins, John and I were pretty close. Ever since we were little, he wanted to be in the military. We had planned that after high school we would join the same branch of service, go to boot camp together, and be in the same division; but in his junior year of high school, John developed testicular cancer. He waited a year before he said anything to me, and when he eventually showed me the evidence, and asked what to do, I said, "You need to tell mom." By then the cancer had gone all through his system. He had chemo prior to surgery, lost all his hair so I shaved my head, too. The whole ordeal was pretty bad for our family.

His surgery involved cutting from the throat area the length of his trunk, and across the mid-section. They saved his belly-button. The good news is that he has made a full recovery and has been in remission ever since. His hair has come back and he wears a beard. Unless he took off his shirt revealing his scars, no one would ever know this had happened. The last time I saw him he stood about six feet tall and weighed about 225. By comparison, I am about five/11 and weigh 160-165. Except for my sister Becki, I am the shortest one in the family. My mom is about five/three, my oldest sister is over six feet and Stephen is six/two. I was born last and am the smallest.

Jill Hochstein and I were married when I was within two months of graduating from high school because I had enlisted in the Navy six months before that and knew I would be called. The only reason I joined the Navy was because their recruiter was the first one who came to talk to me. I enjoyed school but I had no desire to go to college, and I didn't really have a plan. What he suggested sounded better than anything I had in mind.

I met with the recruiter every week. He asked what I liked, and I said, "For one, I never want to be on a ship, and I like to build stuff and put my name on it." He mentioned the Sea Bees. As it turned out, all during my service time, I was never on a ship and usually we got a plaque or something to show the workmanship was by the NMCB (Naval Mobile Construction Battalion). I was in SeaBees 133, known as the Kangaroos. They almost did away with 133 because nearly the whole battalion (roughly 750 men) were killed in Vietnam. They survived with a handful of people and started recruiting more, so they took off again.

On June 21, 1999, a week or two after I graduated in May, I went to boot camp. There were formerly three Navy boot camps, now only one — at Great Lakes. In boot camp we were put in divisions. Now they have SeaBee groups, but not then, so I didn't learn anything about construction. I learned about ships and the sea. There was a model of a ship from which we cast off the lines and retrieved them. The only time I was close to a real ship was when I was in Gulfport. A ship had docked during Mardi Gras, and they needed a volunteer to throw off the lines from the dock. I got volunteered and went down, threw out the line and waved goodbye.

I made it through boot camp. Jill came for my graduation on Friday. We spent the day together and I left on Saturday for "A" school, so I saw her one day in seven months. When I graduated from "A" school, I took two weeks leave, came home, packed up, and Jill returned to Mississippi with me. She lived there the rest of the time I was in the service.

Most of my time was spent overseas and we were flown on cargo planes. It wasn't very comfortable but it wasn't a ship so I didn't care. The very first place I went was Estonia, which had been a part of Russia. We were the first military group who had gone there since WWII, so they made a pretty big deal of our being there. They had a lot of ceremonies for us and we did a lot of traveling.

I remember most clearly that I was in a small contingent of about 15 or 20 guys — five on active duty and the rest were reservists that stayed in a place called Talin. The rest went to the capital. We went to an orphanage where there were a lot of kids who stayed there until they were 18, and almost all had some type of mental handicap. Some people wanted to adopt the kids but except for Russians, they didn't want any of the kids to leave their culture. We built a pavilion which was just a place for them to get out of the weather, and some sand boxes just to help improve their life a little bit.

I accidently went across the border into Russia. There were two Reservists, myself, and a lady interpreter. One of the Reservists became friends with her and we took a road trip. She took us to the Russian border. We started walking, walked through the border patrol station and no one stopped us. We couldn't find anybody so we kept walking and taking pictures. We were up on a bridge, and when I turned around to take a picture, I saw that a sign said, "Welcome to Estonia." So we were actually in Russia! My chief had taken all our passports so we wouldn't lose them, and when we went back through the border station, they wanted to see our passports. Luckily, one of the Reservists had theirs and that was good enough for all of us, so they let us back in. We asked the interpreter what they would have done if we hadn't been able to produce passports and she said, "Well, you would either have been taken to jail or shot."

When Jill knew I was going to Iraq, she was kind of worried because I had the anthrax and small pox series. I wasn't afraid because they said it was a dead virus and there were certain restrictions. We flew to Kuwait, and were there for about a month, waiting on the border until they gave the word we were going into Iraq. Actually, the Marines went in and we followed and supported them. We built shelters and places for the troops to stay. They were just little A-frames over which they put a tent. It was pretty quick work.

All we saw at first was just desert, then lots of oil fields. We saw wild camels that were like wild horses, that just ran wild. A lot of it reminded me of our country in that the farther away we were from Bagdad, the more it seemed like what the old days in America must have been. The people we saw were nomads, living in families. Their shelter was like a big circus tent, which they set up close to where there were water and grass. They would stay there for however long then pack up camp and move the whole family to the next place. A lot of time people would come around us but they seemed friendly.

We were there during the summer and the heat was pretty intense. During the hottest part of the days the temperature was about 130° or 140°, but it really didn't seem that bad. Our unifonos were kind of like the Army's — long sleeves but we could roll them up. They were camouflage suits that held the heat pretty well, and we had flak jackets to protect us from chemicals. The pants were the kind with suspenders and had charcoal in them so the chemical couldn't get through. There was a smock we put on over our heads and zipped up, rubber boots and gloves. Everything was sealed up tight so nothing could get in. In Kuwait we just practiced with it. When sirens went off, we'd put on the "mop gear" until they gave the "all clear."

When we first went into Iraq, I was in that gear for 45 days without a shower. But everybody was doing the same so it was fine, We drank a lot of water.

We were in Kuwait about a month and Iraq for about six months. That was the length of our tour because the SeaBees, even during the first Gulf War, could rotate troops on a normal schedule. We were almost the only unit in which that was possible because there were a lot of battalions to rotate. We had eight battalions, four in Gulfport and four in San Diego. So every seven months another battalion would relieve us and seven months later another battalion. That was one reason I joined the SeaBees.

In home port we did a lot of training and had classes — chemical and others. Those depended on our rate. Steel workers went to welding classes, etc. Some people did a little building but mostly, if we were doing anything on the base, they hired civilians in order to give them work. We could have done it but they wanted to involve the community. During my last home port they were rebuilding a new museum, but for the most part we didn't do any building there.

Just before my first deployment, Jill became pregnant. When I came home, she had moved to a different apartment and was in the hospital. I went to the airport and here were two people I had never met. They asked, "Are you Adam?" I said, "Yes, who are you?" It was Jill's friend, Bonnie, and her husband whom Jill had met there. They said Jill was in the hospital in labor. They took me to the apartment I had never seen, and to the Air Force military base where I'd never been. I got to see Jill but they had given her a relaxant and she was kind of groggy, Our first son, Riley, was born about two weeks after I got home, a month early. He weighed four pounds, 14 ounces, so he was tiny. It was pretty hard to leave for my next deployment. I was 20 years old and would love to have stayed with my family, but I had an obligation.

That was when we went to Italy. I became friends with a guy who joined the battalion after he had been stationed there for two years. He knew his way around. I saw a lot of places, like Mt. Etna, which was an active volcano and we climbed up to the second highest peak. We went to different homes, one of which they had turned into a restaurant so I ate local food, which I tried to do everywhere I went.

From our battalion, some guys built ball fields in three tiers — one for soccer, next for softball and football or baseball. In Italy we built a big turn-around on the airstrip, so they could load bombs and go out the same way they came in. We poured a lot of concrete. On one end of the runway the edge of it was 12" thick, the middle was 18" and about 100 feet long. We had to set up forms which we did about two a day. We hooked cables through it and had rings coming out of the concrete, where they hooked up cables for a ground, in case electrical things went off in the planes they wouldn't set off a bomb. It was important to have those. It was a good project.

All in all, I've probably flown around the world twice, and been to about 50 different countries. I can't really remember them all. I have been to Japan, and Singapore, which was interesting. We were on our way to a little 22 square mile island, Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This is where the picture was taken of me standing under a bomber preparing to go to Afghanistan.

The only flights to go into Diego were cargo and I experienced Singapore because we were stuck there for a week due to 9/11. This is an orderly city-state because of pretty strict laws. For instance, we were not allowed to chew gum — they don't even sell gum there. I bought a couple tee shirts that had all the laws printed on them, for my brothers. Tourists are told, "Singapore is a fine city —there are fines for everything." In a public restroom was a sign, "$500 fine for not flushing." There was a news story a few years ago when a fellow from the states did some act of vandalism and was punished by caning.

Diego Garcia was a main supply point because it was in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The stealth bombers could land to refuel before going to Afghanistan. We built housing for the Filipinos who worked on the military base. Some of the locals lived on it and others came, so we built housing for them. There were 24 10x10 rooms and I was the crew leader in charge of getting the project done. I was there probably two months and then they announced we were packing up and going to Cuba, where we built Camp XRAY, for the detainees from Afghanistan. We built holding cells about 8x8, which reminded me of dog kennels — concrete floor and chain link fence around them.

I was discharged in 2004 after I had served for five years, with 60 days left of active duty terminal leave, which means when that was over, I was finished. In the SeaBees they will let you do 60 days and actually check out of the battalion. It is like being on vacation. Pay continues but there is time to look for a job and decide whether or not to re-enlist. I had a good friend, Jon, who went through this about the same time as I did. We are still good friends and about day 55 he re-enlisted because he knew it wasn't going to be that easy for him to make that much money and do what he wanted to do. He's still in the military.

Now we are settled at home in Osceola. I am working at Highway Lumber, Jill is doing day care. Riley is in first grade, Ethan, who also was born in Gulfport, is four, and Michah is 10 months. I left when Riley was seven months old, and when I came back he was 1 1/2 years. We have a lot of videotape of Riley. Sometime during my service years, I went to Spain for a short period, as I did lots of places. While I was there, I saw video cameras on sale. I talked to Jill and she agreed I should buy one. The one I bought has a tape that can be converted to a cassette recorder so that was how I watched him grow up. It was different but it helped.


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Last Revised June 1, 2015