Every member of the armed forces waits for the day when they get to go home, whether from a deployment or a 10 day leave from duty. Like Senior Airman Matt Klundt of Fresno. He’s been back at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska following a tour to Iraq since mid July.
Adjusting to being in America has been a new challenge especially with this home base recovering from a recent deadly plane crash. Still, a leave to go home is putting things in perspective.
It's now the end of July, and I have been back in Alaska from Iraq for over a month now. The transition from deployed life hasn't been hard, but it hasn't been easy either. All of the things that you're used to doing with all the men and women you work and live with for that year has changed. You get accustomed to doing one thing for so long, and switching it back isn't the easiest thing. But that's all part of the sacrifice. It was difficult leaving the airport in Germany with all of the members of my deployed family going our separate ways, back to our home stations. But that just shows the level of commitment and the relationships built over the year we were together.
My running hasn't missed a beat. Adjusting to the different climates was a challenge as well, but all it took was being back in the wonderful Alaskan environment for a week or two. I ran and won a 5 mile race on 24 July. 27:53 was my time and won by over a minute. Next up: Arctic Warrior Half Marathon on Elmendorf AFB on 31 July 2010. For me, this race is going to be a dedication race.
On 28 July, 2010, a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft crashed on Elmendorf AFB; all four of its passengers and pilots were killed on impact. I didn't know any of the pilots or passengers, but it directly affected me, and the rest of the members of my squadron.
18:35 - Got out of the shower and started
getting dressed for a flight BBQ
18:38 - Received a call from my friend, on base at the BBQ … "Dude, a C-17 just crashed. You need to get over here now. Throw any clothes on you can, and hurry up."
I ran to my car, and rushed across town to base. So many times we, as a unit and an installation, practice for incidents like this but never in our wildest dreams do we want this to happen. But all of the response units were flawless with response times and enthusiasm. As Security Forces, we are first responders of the base for anything, the law and order of the installation, "Defenders of the Force".
I take great pride in defending my country and this incident hit hard, ALMOST as hard as my 2nd day in Baghdad when 1Lt Joseph Helton was killed in an IED blast on his way to pick up my flight commander and squad leader.
I was directly involved with the security and safety of securing the crash site of the aircraft. It's the type of thing you only see in movies, it doesn't really click that it's actually happening right at the point in time. So much is going on in your mind it's hard to fully comprehend the situation as it's unfolding. There was so much adrenaline going through me, all the training I've gone through in the past felt like instinct, just natural. After the recall was over, it was nearly 11pm -- 23:00 hours.
After working a full 10 hours, and 5 extra on top of that, I was drained on all levels: emotionally, and physically especially. The following day of work, 29 July 2010, was filled with crash recovery. All of my fellow Security Forces members were beat and tired in the same manner, but we pulled through and still are.
My next race, the Arctic Warrior Half Marathon, will be run in remembrance of the four airmen who lost their lives in the crash.
Matt’s running defines who he is, just as honoring the fallen with his personal dedicated process.
At the age of 24 he truly understands his own mortality.
We all have events in our lives that make you realize what, and who, is important to you; to realize how much we truly take for granted and that we should cherish the loved ones in our lives every second of every day. (My) transition is still ongoing...being in Baghdad for a year, learning new rules and regulations, your way of life is completely different than back in the US … It was very bittersweet to go home. All the men and women whom I served with over the last year were departing at different times and going to our respective bases all around the world.
I have two families: my blood family, and my deployed family. I love them, miss them, and would do anything for them. Anything can happen at any point in time...whether you are deployed or not. But the risk is extremely elevated over there (deployed in Iraq/Afghanistan). One night you could be talking to one of your buddies outside of your room when it's 115 degrees outside, and the next morning you could be rushing out to the medevac pad, all lined up standing at attention, raising a salute as members of a convoy who was just hit with an IED explosion not a half hour before carry a body bag of one of their own.
I'm not looking for danger or anything like that back home, but I make sure that every second of my day counts, it has a meaning, it has a purpose - I make someone smile or laugh because those are times that we need to look forward to. Not times of being sad or anger, but times of joy and happiness.
You never know what might happen in the next moment.
A young soldier who knows how precious life is and how often we allow ourselves to be caught up in trivialities.
Lessons learned by a young warrior with boots on the ground serving his country.