Orange County Veterans Service Officer Jerry Childress and American Legion Post 250 Commander Michael Reilly present a U.S. Flag to USMC Lance Cpl. Jeremy Ward. The flag provided by Congressman Kevin Brady had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

G.J. Ragsdale
For The Record

USMC Lance Cpl. Jeremy Ward is happy to be home for Christmas from Iraq, but he is ready and willing to return to the combat zone should the Marine Corps give him orders for another seven-month tour of duty.

American Legion Post 250 of Bridge City/Orangefield honored Ward with a U.S. Flag as a show of appreciation for his service in the war torn country of Iraq. The flag provided by Congressman Kevin Brady had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

"I am very honored," the Marine said as American Legion Post 250 Commander Michael Reilly and Orange County Veterans Service Officer Jerry Childress presented the flag to Ward. "It’s nice to see a lot of people back here supporting us."

Reilly said Post 250 tries to honor Orange County active duty members while they are in the area.

"It’s our way of showing our gratitude to these young men and women for what they are doing for our country and for us," Reilly said.

"I can recall during Vietnam military people were harassed and ridiculed in some parts of the country," Childress said. "These men and women deserve our respect. They are experiencing things that will change them and remain with them for the rest of their lives."

Ward, son of Mark and Pamela Ward of Orange, and Christine Duhon of Crowley, La., is spending Christmas in Orange County after serving his second tour in Iraq. He will also travel to Crowley to visit his mother. But he is also glad to spend time with his wife, Tiffany. Tiffany will remain in Orange when Jeremy reports to his permanent assignment, 29 Palms, Calif.

He and Tiffany married about one year ago, two years after he entered the Marine Corps.

"It’s a little difficult on her," he said regarding the hardships in being separated from his new wife.

Jeremy and Tiffany dated while they both attended West Orange-Stark High School. He came to Orange in 2002 and entered WO-S HS in his sophomore year. He joined the Marine Corps in October 2004, shortly after his graduation.

"It was just something I always wanted to do," he said. "Ever since I was little I wanted to join the military. In my senior year, I decided on the Marine Corps. They’re supposed to be the best of the best and have the hardest training."

Marine Corps training was very close to what he expected, but preparing for combat as a radio operator and rifleman/infantry was a new experience. As he shipped out for his first tour in Iraq, anxiety began to hit him.

"I was excited but nervous at the same time," he said. "We spent so much time training, but at the same time we were nervous."

His first tour was difficult, he said, as the fighting was nearly continuous.

"Our first deployment we had firefights every day," Jeremy said. "We lost some people."
But Jeremy said he saw changes in the Iraq people and their country on his second tour.

"After two deployments, it’s just amazing how everything changed," he said. "We were actually working with people. This deployment we were fixing sewage and training with Iraq police."

His unit participated in assisting Iraq business people with business loans to help them restart their businesses after being devastated by war.

"We were rebuilding everything," Jeremy said, "giving them their lives back to them. They don’t have to worry about Al-Qaeda so their kids can go out to play."

Childress attended Thursday’s ceremony and provided his office for the presentation. Childress, who is also the Service Officer for Post 250 and retired Air Force, said combat veterans suffer from many different types of trauma, and he invited Jeremy to visit the VSO when the Marine is discharged. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common condition among all combat veterans, Childress said, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) now recognizes PTSD as a disability. However, Jeremy said he believes he is handling the trauma and hardship of combat.

"I just haven’t had any problems with any of that," Jeremy said regarding PTSD. "It might be because I’m still young."

Jeremy will be on leave until Jan. 13, 2008. He will be returning to his home base, 29 Palms, Calif., but he strongly suspects he will have a third tour in Iraq.

"I’m thinking about extending or re-enlisting," Jeremy said, "and if I do, I will probably go back to Iraq."

He said he is undecided about making a career of the Marine Corps. He had worked for an underwater welding company after graduation and has a desire to seek a career in underwater welding. Fortunately, his former company, Longhorn Diving, has offered his job back to him when he separates from the Marine Corps. He took courses in machine shop when he attended WO-S HS.

Jeremy has one sister, Nichole Chance; three stepsisters, Jamie Babb, Kenzie Duhon and Kristin Duhon; and one stepbrother, Eric Duhon.