Operation Enduring Freedom: Coping Couple
By Mark Geary, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - One Cedar Rapids couple understands the Iowa National Guard deployment process more than most. On May 1, Staff Sergeant Shaun Swiser of the HHC 2nd BCT based out of Boone married Sergeant Jessica Swiser of the 209th Medical Company based out of Iowa City.
Several weeks later, Shaun graduated from Kirkwood Community College and Jessica earned a degree from Mount Mercy College. They both planned to be among the 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers training for the upcoming Afghanistan mission.
Shaun is a data systems integrator for the Iowa National Guard. He uses computers to keep track of missions and make sure no one gets lost or left behind. He’s been in the National Guard for the past twelve years. "It can be a little stressful at times, but it's a job that I love,” he said. He’s already been deployed to Iraq and Kuwait. "There's definitely a bit of fear in me about going over there, but having a support system back home is going to make it a lot better,” he said.
Jessica signed up in 2003. She’s a medic. Back in 2006, the military sent her to Iraq. Earlier this year, the National Guard revealed plans to deploy her to the Middle East again. "I was like, 'Wow, I could be going to Afghanistan. Ok, cool. I haven't been there yet,'” she said.
But, in early June, Shaun left for Camp Ripley, Minnesota and Jessica stayed behind in Iowa. The newlyweds are expecting a baby. Jessica is due on Christmas Eve. "I always wanted a family. I really feel like this is a good direction and God's telling us, 'This is time,'" Jessica said.
Both hope Shaun can temporarily come home to be there for the birth. "I tell him, ‘As long as you get here by the 31st of December…I'll stand on my head if I need to...to keep the baby in. I really want to be able to crush your hand as I push your child out,’" Jessica said.
Even though she’s been on a battlefield, she still worries about her husband. "Hopefully he won't be out on the front lines. He should be in a pretty safe area,” Jessica said.
In the meantime, the couple's shared military background helps them stay connected. "We're both military, so we understand the system. It's going ok. There are some speed bumps here and there, but overall, I think we're handling it well,” Shaun said.
Jessica said, "It is awesome having us both working in the military. We understand the concept of...I worked a twenty hour day today. I'm tired. I don't want to call. I'm going to bed." The mother-to-be has a lot to look forward to over the next few months, but still envies her husband a little bit. "When he gets over there and sends some pictures home, I probably will be a little bit jealous, especially with a newborn screaming in my ear,” she said.
Shaun also misses his life back in Iowa. However, they both can't wait to raise their child together after the Afghanistan mission is over.
Jessica plans to visit her husband at Camp Shelby, Mississippi soon. The baby just started to kick. Shaun is excited to spend a few days with Jessica before he leaves for Fort Irwin, California and then moves on to Afghanistan later this year.
What's On KCRG