The Best Moment Of Deployment: Coming Home

Throughout our show this Memorial Day weekend, we're hearing from members of the 182nd Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard. In this installment, Staff Sgt. James Bradosky describes a family tragedy that struck just before he left for war.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All this year, we're following the soldiers of the 182nd Infantry Regiment as these National Guardsmen return to civilian life after a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. To mark this Memorial Day weekend, we've asked them to share the most vivid memory from a year spent at war.

STAFF SGT. JAMES BRADOWSKY: My name is Staff Sergeant James Bradowsky. It was tough to think about things that could stick with me forever from this last deployment. But so far my best memory is, was coming home. That was probably the most poignant moment of this deployment for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADOWSKY: Right before we were about to be deployed, my wife - she had given birth to a baby, Hayden(ph), our son. And she ended up losing that baby shortly thereafter, within a couple of days. I was home for leave when that happened and we were able to be together for awhile, while we went through a grieving process. But I was only home for about two to three weeks.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, was to leave at that point. We have two children and, you know, it was always in the back of my mind when I was over there, that she was going through, you know, this pretty traumatic event pretty much on her own.

During the deployment, you're on two sides of a fence. You know, I'm on one side trying to let her know what's going on - sort of, overseas - and nothing specific. 'Cause you don't want to concern your spouse, and I think she kind of did the same thing. She said everything was OK. I can tell in her voice. You know, when I would talk to her at the beginning of the year, it was hard for her.

It wasn't until the end of the deployment, until it started creeping back into my consciousness. I mean, I thought about it a lot but I tried not to let it affect me in my daily life. And so when I finally did come home, it was pretty emotional because I knew I had to, A: confront everything that I probably just shut off. But more importantly, I was able to be home.

We flew into Logan and they had a memorial hall in Melrose. I remember we marched in off the buses and they had us file in and fall right into formation. And once I spotted my family, I couldn't stop waving at them. And you're like a horse in the stable just waiting to run.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADOWSKY: There was no feeling quite like it, knowing that it's finally over. The weight was off the shoulders once, you know, once we broke formation and I hugged my wife. So it was really awesome. And to see my kids again. My son's 6, my daughter's 3. So my son was old enough to understand where I was and what I was doing. So he wants to make sure that I'm not going away ever again.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADOWSKY: I told him I can't promise it but there's a good chance that I'm never have to do that same thing again. So, he said, you're going to be home forever now. And I said, yeah, I'm home forever.

MARTIN: Staff Sergeant James Bradowsky.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And you're listening to NPR News.

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