Nick Turdo opens up about having a Father in Afghanistan

Since I’ve started this blog I’ve been very open about how I feel about my fathers absence in the last 5 months.  For this post I thought I’d ask someone who was raised in the same house, the same way, and is dealing with similar emotions for the same person.  My brother, Nick, agreed to sit for an interview to speak on the situation from a much different vantage point.  Though the answers are what you’d expect, they mean much more giving that emotions don’t flow as freely from this Turdo.

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My first care package

I decided with Halloween just leaving us, and Thanksgiving right around the corner it’s about time I sent my Dad a care package.  I decided to mix the holidays together, with the understanding that it will probably not get to him until after Thanksgiving.

I first decided that with Halloween in mind, sending him a bag of his favorite candy was a must, even though he told me not to.  Along with candy I decided a Philadelphia favorite snack to remind him a bit of home.  I also got him a box of Cliff bars in his favorite flavor, just to even out the junk food.

Dad candy

cliff

Growing up my dad always had a stack of National Geographic magazines, although I know he prefers Business Week it’s a little hard to send a weekly magazine when you know it’ll be almost 2 months out of date by the time it gets there.  National Geographic is something I know he’ll enjoy.

natl

Lately I’ve been hearing from my dad how cold it’s gotten in Northern Afghanistan, about 50°, the same as our classic New Jersey fall.  I went to Target and picked up what I found to be a comfortable, yet sporty jacket that I know will keep him warm while away and when he comes home.  It’s a Champion jacket with a fleece inner-layer, cost around $40.00 and is great if you’re looking to send your loved one a sporty light jacket while he’s away.

jacket

I sent my dad two cards, one for Halloween and one for Thanksgiving, each describing in their own themed way how much I miss him during these times.  Fall in New Jersey is my favorite time of year, and more than ever I wish he was here to enjoy it with me.

" Wish there were a magic spell that let us travel in one simple instant poof

” Wish there were a magic spell that let us travel in one simple instant poof

halloween inside

“Then i could wish you a Happy Halloween in person. Thinking of you from across the miles..”

thanksgiving front

“Thanksgiving means..autumn skies, crisp clean air, bright leaves falling here and there, Pies are baking, meals prepared, warmth and hugs and laughter shared.”

thanksgiving inside

“But all those good things can’t replace just being with you face to face-And even though we’re far apart, please know you’re always close in heart!”
–“Dad, This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for you. I am grateful and proud of what you’re doing. I am grateful for the chance to speak to you as often as I can, and for your safe return home. Above all I’m grateful I have such a great Dad who I can call my friend. Love you, See you soon 🙂 Gina”

Last but not least, I had to include a couple of pictures.  My dad missed out on a family wedding in October, and although he saw all the pictures through Facebook, I included a few in the package.

cousins

My brother, myself, my cousins Kristen, Noelle, and Michael

nick and i

My brother Nick and I

I’m hoping my package reaches my Dad and touches his heart.  All of the things included were chosen to make him smile and look forward for his short return on December 20th.

all things

All care package items

Inside box

Items placed in box right before taping!

Maria Brasco shares her experience as a Marine Girlfriend

This week I sat down with Rowan student, Maria Brasco to speak to her on her experience as a Marine Girlfriend.  Maria is 21 and missing her boyfriend, Taj who is currently serving his final deployment as a Marine in Japan.  Maria shared with me the hardships of being away from the person you love, the obstacles they face as a couple, and what helps them going.

Maria and Taj Facetiming via iPhones to keep in touch

Maria and Taj Facetiming via iPhones to keep in touch

Maria Brasco, Rowan Student.

Maria Brasco, Rowan Student.

Maria sending Taj off in South Carolina

Maria sending Taj off in North Carolina

Taj's gift to Maria while deployed in Japan, a Alex and Ani USMC bracelet

Taj’s gift to Maria while deployed in Japan, a Alex and Ani USMC bracelet

Military Support Group of New Jersey

On Thursday October 10, I attended a support group in Blackwood, NJ for family members with loved ones away, veterans, and supporters.  When I walked into the American Legion Stetser-Lamartine Post 281 in Blackwood, NJ, I had no idea what I was about to encounter.

The Military Support Group of NJ is an organization that is ran by Rowan Alumn Karen Jennings, a Marine Mom that withstood the heartache of her son serving 3 times overseas with little communication each time.  She felt alone, and knew there were others that felt the same.  She decided to pour her heart and soul into the organization, making it what it is today.

Upon her arrival, Karen was bombarded with gift baskets, packaged goods, canned food, and toiletries all to be organized and sent off to their respective bases to go out to the men who need them the most.  “When you’re in the middle east a pop tart can taste like a steak”, I listened as Karen explained to me the methods and decision making behind care packages.  My favorite tip: never mix toiletries and food.  No one wants deodorant flavored mashed potatoes.

IMG_2897

Post 281

Post 281

IMG_2896 IMG_2894

Items being organized for care packages.

Items being organized for care packages.

 

I highly encourage anyone in the area that is struggling or just interested in helping or meeting people with similar interests to attend the meetings and introduce yourself to these welcoming, wonderful people.

 

 

Chief of Staff, Steve Turdo shares on his military experience in Afghanistan

Since the start of this blog I’ve mentioned my Dad, Steve Turdo, numerous times.  My father has worked for the U.S. government for over 36 years in many different positions.  He has surrounded himself with the work he loves and with that has grown to expand is knowledge, experiences and even better himself through education.  He is a Rowan Alumn, gaining his bachelors in 2006 and is currently working towards his masters.

I’ve always been proud of the work ethic my father possesses and have tried to emulate the same in my own work. For as long as I can remember I’ve always thought my Dad had the coolest job.  Whenever I was asked what my dad does for a living I of course was honored to respond with “U.S. Department of Defense”.   That honor is now larger than ever, now that my answer has been replaced with “He manages DCMA employees on base in Northern Afghanistan”.

This weekend my dad had a full schedule of traveling, and assessing other bases.  He still found the opportunity to answer some questions I had for him via email about his position, experience so far, and expectations.  As proud as I am of everything he’s done, I’m even more proud to share it with others.

Stephen Turdo -- Bargam Airfield Base

Stephen Turdo — Bargam Airfield Base

Name: Stephen Turdo

Age: 55

Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA

Current Location: Bargam Airfield Base, in the Parwan Province, Afghanistan

Q. What is your position?

A. Defense Contract Management Agency Northern Afghanistan Chief of Staff

Q. How long have you been away from home?

A. Since June 29th, 2013.  I will return in May 2014.

Q. What do your daily duties consist of?

A. Day to day operations for a command of about 70 people, workload balancing, supervisor and personnel issues for about 30 civilian employees

Q. What has been the biggest transition for you since you’ve been away?

A. Lack of indoor plumbing.  And the realization that we are supporting the men and women that are here fighting and protecting our way of life.  They are eating and sharing the same confined base with us and what we do is in direct support of their mission.

Camp Eggers

Q. Does the culture influence you on the base? If so, how?

A. Yes, there are individuals from the militaries of the coalition forces, the local nationals that work on the base, as well as citizens from other countries working for the contractors providing services to the military.  They are all interesting and they all have their own reasons for being here.  When I arrived, the only people I knew were the people I trained with for the deployment and some of the individuals that I communicated with prior to coming to Afghanistan

Q.  Have you formed any kind of relationship with the soldiers on your base?

A. Yes, about half of our staff in Northern Afghanistan is military, and the other two offices are about half military and we deal with them on a daily basis.  I talk to the Airmen and Soldiers everyday, part of my responsibilities include working with the soldiers and briefing new employees when they arrive and out-briefing and receiving feedback as they leave.  We discuss everyday work activities as well as their job back in the States, their families and where they are from.  My boss is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.

Sahate Ame Circle

Sahate Ame Circle

Q. What is the hardest thing been for you since you’ve been there?

A. Not being able to have a diversion from my routine.  Although I have traveled to other bases in Northern Afghanistan it would be nice to have a day or two to attend or participate in other activities.

Q.  Has your communication differed with your family at home?

A.  Somewhat, I am able to communicate almost on a daily basis.  Either through the Internet using Wifi or using the voice over IP office phones

Q. What is the first thing you’re looking forward to when you come home?

A. Seeing my family! Being able to go and do what I want, currently we work seven days a week and cannot leave the base.  We travel between bases either in airplanes or on helicopters only seeing outside the base from the air.

Go Badgers

The University of Wisconsin’s football organization pays a ‘Thank You’ at every home game by honoring a ‘Military Family of the Game’.  On saturday night 13-year-old Bella Lund was brought to the field for what she thought was to stand as the chosen family member.  A voice began speaking over the stadium’s sound system.

“We salute Bella’s mother, Captain Jane Renee Lund, better known as J.R. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, J.R. functions as a veterinarian in U.S. Army Reserves. Since April, she has been serving our country in Afghanistan providing agricultural education to Afghans and providing care to military working dogs. Once her tour is complete, J.R. plans to return home in October to be reunited with Bella and the rest of her family.  But Bella, sometimes plans change.  Ladies and gentlemen at this time, please direct your attention to the south end zone, and Bella turn around and welcome home your mother, Captain Jane Renee Lund!”

Lund, a University of Wisconsin Alum stormed the field to meet her daughter for the first time in five months in front of over 80,000 attendees.  Both Wisconsin and Purdue fans cheered wildly at the reunion all while aired on TV during an extended time out.

host.madison.com

Jane Renee and Daughter Bella Lund reuniting during the University of Wisconsin’s ‘Military Family of the Game’ — host.madison.com