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Federal Way soldier spends first holiday season deployed in Afghanistan
Tanner Weber, a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and a 2005 graduate of Federal Way High School, is experiencing his first holiday season deployed.
Weber, currently stationed in Delaram, Afghanistan, says it’s hard to be away from home, but finds the support from home, and the support of his fellow soldiers, to be more than enough.
“It’s hard to be deployed during the holidays,” Weber said on the phone from Afghanistan. “Especially not being around friends and family. It’s weird having a Christmas in a place that’s foreign. Luckily, we’ve got a good group of guys here to celebrate it.”
Weber said the buildings at his base in Delaram have decorations, and that the mess hall has Christmas trees. He and fellow soldiers recently received stockings to help increase their holiday cheer. Along with all those reminders of the holidays, Weber says the occasional holiday song pops up on his fellow soldiers’ iPods and phones.
The 24-year-old Lance Corporal said he doesn’t have a sweetheart at home, but did say his family is a big support during his first deployment.
“Well, (I have), my mother Nancy, my father Dick, my little brother Austin. Lots of friends that I went to high school with. I have a lot of family members from all over Washington state, grandparents, uncles, aunts. There’s lots of support coming in,” he said.
Even beyond family and friends, Weber said the troops receive care packages and other gifts from back home from complete strangers.
For Weber, the experience of being in Afghanistan has been “eye opening.”
“To hear stories, to read things in the news…to actually come and see it, and experience it every day. It’s been a good experience, a learning experience. I’ve gone through a lot of growth here. The work we do out here is so important, and it’s good,” he said.
Weber’s work includes facilitating the movement of gear and other supplies on helicopters headed out to troops in the field. While fairly mundane, he has been involved in a firefight, something that doesn’t happen too often for people in his role.
“It was also a very humbling and eye opening experience. Especially for the job I have, it’s not very common that a situation like that arises. More or less, the place I was working at, we were working guard duty up in a post, we took fire and had to return fire. Especially where I was at, it wasn’t very common to see (something like that). The day I was there just happened to be the day that happened.”
While his current role in the Reserves has him in Afghanistan, Weber says he plans on trying to find a job in international relations in the future. He had just completed his associate’s degree at Highline Community College in March of this year when the call to deploy was sent out.
For Weber, deployment was a choice, not a requirement, he said.
“A lot of people, when I told them I was getting deployed, saw it as a negative thing,” he said. “I didn’t join to not deploy. When I had the opportunity, I was happy to take it. I wanted to get out here and help everyone do their job. It’s something I don’t regret at all.”
With Afghanistan now being the longest running war in American history, and the troops in Iraq completely pulled out, Weber said he and his fellow soldiers don’t really focus on any of those larger issues.
“We focus on the job we have in front of us. We’re more concerned with what we’re doing in the present, instead of in terms of what may or not may happen,” he said.
Through it all, though, Weber says the support from home is still what keeps the job bearable, and took the time to thank those who have supported him.
“I would just want to say, thank you so much for the love and support I receive, that my buddies out there receive every day,” he said. “It’s really a good thing for us out here, and we really appreciate it a lot.”