North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 23, 2014

'Unknown factor" is the hardest thing for Marine Brandon James

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

SECOND IN A SERIES — Family is the center of many of Brandon James’ decisions, even his reason for enlisting in the military.

“Everybody has a calling,” he said. “But really the reason was to provide a stable life for my wife.”

While in Afghanistan, James and his fellow Marines experienced relentless conditions, including up to 76 hours without sleep and temperatures in the 120s.

“It feels like you’re in a dry oven with somebody blowing a hot hair dryer in your face,” he said.  “You can’t just turn the air conditioner on.”

Besides that, the Marines were carrying 65 pounds of gear, including their rifle. “The physical stuff is pretty demanding,” he said.

However, that wasn’t even the hardest thing.

James said the most difficult part for him was “the unknown factor, not knowing what would happen the next day. Anything could happen.

However, he realizes the same thing was also the hardest aspect for his family.

“The deployment is hard, not just on me, but on them,” he said. “They were on the back side, waiting on a phone call or a knock at the door. They had the unknown factor too, and that’s stressful, especially when you have a kid.”

But he and the others had to learn how to think of their mission and their safety first when they were deployed.

“When I’m over there, I’m worried about her, about my family. Even if she has a flat tire, I can’t change it,” he said. “But you have to put that on the backburner and worry about your brother on your right and your left.”

For now, however, Bran­don can concentrate on his family again as he settles back into a routine.

Coming back home was “not as hard as I thought it would be,” Brandon said. “I thought I would be jumpy.”

But he could see how happy his wife Lindsey was to see him, and that made a big difference. “I couldn’t see coming back and not having my family support,” he said. “That welcoming puts a little coating on it.”

Lindsey, who stayed at Camp Lejeune during the deployment, said Brandon’s homecoming was also easy for her.

“It was a pretty good transition,” she said. “We just went back to the way things were before he left.”

The deployment has made Brandon view many things in a different way, including Americans’ attitude toward the war and the military. He senses an apathy in the general public, especially since the war has gone on for 10 years.

He mentioned the thousands of military personnel serving overseas, in all branches of service.

“Everyone is a brother and sister. We are doing one thing, and one thing only,” he said. “We’re serving the American people and making the country safe. Every luxury we don’t have, you do. We do it not out of selfishness, we do it out of a love for our country, for our families, for our faith. That’s the reasons we do it.”

He also said American military personnel really appreciate it when strangers send care packages or cards.

“We appreciate everything. We’re like, ‘They still care,’” he said. “It makes a difference, it really does. And you have no idea what a card from a first-grader can mean. It makes you feel like a superhero. I know the teacher made them do it, but for a second, they cared. For a second, you’re not in the sand or wind or heat, you’re with that kid.”