|After 11 years of retirement from the Illinois Army National Guard, Master Sgt. Jim Jones, a Knoxville resident, decided he wanted to deploy with his wife and the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT). This would be Jim's second deployment; his first deployment was to Vietnam in 1971 and 1972.
The decision came after he called his wife, Julie, while she was at pre-mobilization training at Camp Atterbury, Ind., in August 2008. While Jim was on the phone with Julie, he was asked by the 33rd IBCT if he wanted to come out of the individual ready reserve retiree recall and deploy with them to Afghanistan.
"Sure, why not?" responded Jim.
From there, the paperwork began and Jim received his orders two days before Thanksgiving to report January 11th for Afghanistan. Both Jim and Julie are assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters' Company, 33rd IBCT based in Urbana, where he is the operations sergeant major and she is the company's first sergeant.
"I didn't feel comfortable sitting at home while my wife was deployed,"said Jim. "I just felt there was something I might be able to do."
Being deployed together has its positive and negative moments. Jim said it has been a positive experience deploying with his wife, especially when they can listen and understand each other.
"The best part is being able to see one another on a regular basis and to know the other is okay," said Jim. "The worst part is not being able to always help when the other has a problem."
According to Julie, the best part for her is having her husband with her in Afghanistan, but it was difficult for her to leave her family, friends and unit back home.
Jim and Julie have one child, Jasmine, who is going to be a sophomore at Monmouth College. In addition to college, she is taking on a lot of responsibilities such as managing the bills and housework while her parents are gone. But the new responsibilities are not the worse part for Jasmine. According to Jasmine the worse part is not getting to see her parents and not knowing if she will ever get to see them again.
"It broke my heart when (Jasmine) cried when I told her, but she understands why I do what I do," said Julie. "It was a lot easier due to the fact that she is older and is out of high school."
Both Julie and Jim keep in contact with their daughter via Web cams or e-mail several times a week. According to Julie, when Jasmine found out Jim was also deploying, it made it worse knowing that both of her parents would be away at war at the same time. Jasmine has two step-brothers who live close by, along with the neighbors and friends they keep an eye on her and are there to help her out if she needs it.
"I am very proud of my parents for what they are doing and I think it takes a lot of courage to volunteer," said Jasmine. "I respect their decision and I just can't wait for them to get back."
Jim and Julie have been married since July 1994 and met in the Illinois Army National Guard. They married during annual training at Camp Grayling, Minn.
The Jones' and the rest of the Urbana unit are expected back in Illinois by late summer.
"First, after getting all the 'hellos' over with, I want to get my dogs back home and try to get in a normal rhythm," said Jim about the first things he plans to do when he returns. "Then sleep for about a week and then take a trip on the Harley."
Julie is looking forward to taking a vacation, possibly to Scotland where Jasmine will be spending her second semester of college next year. Jasmine said she will talk her parents ears off, catching them up on everything they have missed and try to make up for lost time.
Master Sgt. Jim Jones and his wife 1st Sgt Julie Jones, residents of Knoxville, stand underneath the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) flag at Camp Phoenix in Afghanistan. Both are deployed with the Headquarters and Headquarters' Company, 33rd IBCT based in Urbana for a one-year deployment. They are scheduled to be back in Illinois by the end of the summer. Jim and Julie have been married since July 1994 and have one daughter, Jasmine, who is taking care of everything back home while her parents are deployed. Story and Photo submitted by Illinois Army and Air National Guard.