University of Oklahoma student Jeff Gray knew he had a choice to make when he heard last month that his National Guard brigade had been called up for duty in Iraq.
The 19-year-old National Guard private first class could join the ROTC and continue with his second year at the university, or he could go with his brigade to Iraq.
“It’s probably the hardest thing I’d ever decided between,” Gray said. “I had to choose between self and country. I chose country.”
He hopes his decision to go to Iraq will lead to just a one-year disruption of his college education.
“Hopefully I’ll go back to college, live a normal life again,” he said.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Reserve and National Guard soldiers have had to withdraw from school for deployment one or more times, said Patricia Ingram, OU veteran student services coordinator.
Seventeen National Guard and Reserve soldiers have withdrawn from school this semester through OU’s Veterans Affairs office, she said.
That number is up from the average of the past few years.
Only 10 students withdrew in fall 2006, Ingram said. About 124 National Guard and Reserve soldiers attend OU through the G.I. Bill, she said.
The 45th Oklahoma National Guard Infantry Brigade was notified they might be deployed to Iraq earlier this year, but were officially given notice in August.
They will be deployed to Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 19, for training and then go to Iraq.
Gray, a 2006 Norman High graduate, joined the National Guard shortly before high school graduation. He said he grew up knowing he would join the military.
“My whole family’s been in, so it wasn’t ever a big decision,” he said. He chose the National Guard because they would pay for his college education. When he enrolled, he said he didn’t expect to go to Iraq in the Guard.
Information from: The Norman Transcript, http://www.normantranscript.com
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