Married couple bound for Iraq

Erin and Jose Chacon are headed together to Iraq on Friday as part of the 282nd Army Engineer Company.

The Chacons are among 21 Grand Valley Army reservists being deployed for a year to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For Jose Chacon, 27, it’s a return trip. For Erin Chacon, it’s the fulfillment of an ambition that began before her husband went to Iraq the first time, as a private in the 244th Engineer Co.

The two are parents to three children: Jessica, 6; Patrick, 4; and Matthew, 22 months.

Erin Chacon’s plan had been to leave her husband behind with the children and serve in Iraq while he remained with the children.

Jose Chacon was having none of that.

“He decided to re-enlist and go with me,” she said.

The children will remain home with family.

Actually, Jose Chacon said, about one-quarter of the unit did as he did and volunteered for the tour of duty in Iraq.

For him and others, “It’s a reserve thing,” something a soldier does to accompany buddies in harm’s way.

For Erin Chacon, there’s more to it.

“If you enjoy your freedoms, why not fight for other people to enjoy them, too?” she said.

When rank matters, he’s Staff Sgt. Chacon, and she is Spc. Chacon, a medic.

When it doesn’t, Erin Chacon said, he’ll be “Sgt. Honey.”

Exactly what they’ll do in Iraq is unknown, and how often they’ll deal with each other is likewise a mystery. Some bases in Iraq, however, do have quarters for married couples, and it’s possible the company will be assigned to one of those bases, Jose Chacon said.

In preparation for their duty, the Chacons today will clean up their Orchard Mesa home, a job that includes taking down the Christmas tree and the Christmas stockings that dangle from the P-E-A-C-E letters on a nearby shelf.

On Friday, they and the other 19 Grand Valley residents will depart from the Gunnison Reserve Center on Orchard Mesa at 8 a.m. and pass through Grand Junction and Palisade en route to Fort Carson and then Fort Bliss in Texas. From there, after training, they’ll be deployed to Iraq.

The 21 soldiers are dubbed “Our 21,” and their families and friends will be waving and wishing them a safe return along the way. Well-wishers may gather at Ninth Street and Pitkin Avenue to wave flags and cheer.

The send-off isn’t just for the 282nd, said Carol MacInnes.

Soldiers routinely leave the Grand Valley on deployments, and most go unnoticed.

“This is for them, too,” MacInnes said. “This is for all of them.”


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