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Spec. Ortega proud to serve his county in the National Guard

Posted Friday, February 6, 2009, at 4:32 PM

Spec. Jason Ortega
Among the proud members of the Indiana National Guard's 76th Brigade Combat Team that were honored last Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis was Linton resident Spec. Jason Ortega.

Ortega and about 130 members of Alpha Company of the Task Force 1-151 -- based in Linton -- were among the 4,500 soldiers and airmen who paraded into Lucas Oil Stadium for a large scale welcome home program.

It was a great and moving program and I had the honor of attending.

Linton native Holly (Dunn) Lynn, who now lives in suburban Nashville, Tenn., hit a home run with her stunning rendition of The National Anthem.

Linton Mayor Tom Jones gave one of three keynote addresses and did a great job. He talked about the importance of the National Guard armories to Indiana communities and thanked the Guardsmen for their service to the nation, state and every community in the state.

The other talks were delivered by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Indiana Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger.

Spec. Ortega, a 2004 graduate of Linton-Stockton High School, joined the Indiana National Guard as an 11th grader as part of an early enlistment program.

He did his basic training over the next two summers and started drilling at the Linton Armory.

In December 2007, the 23-year-old Guardsman was mobilized with his unit and sent to Iraq where he spent about nine months in the combat zone as a 50-caliber gunner and helped escort supply trucks.

He returned home with his unit in late November -- on the day after the Thanksgiving -- and has used the time since then to relax and get re-accustomed to life away from the military.

Spec. Ortega is also catching up on lost time with his family -- especially his five-month-old little girl, Madison, who was born during his deployment. He was able to take a short leave so he could be back in Indiana for her birth.

Ortega has been a member of the National Guard for six years and he re-enlisted for another three years while he was overseas.

He admits he has enjoyed his time in the Guard.

"It's a good experience. I've benefited from it. There are times when everything is not perfect, but I like it," he said.

The Linton man said overall his first deployment was a positive experience.

"The only sad part about it was missing family. That was the hardest part," he pointed out while acknowledging that he was able to call home often and had easy access to the Internet so he could e-mail and utilize messaging service with his wife and family back home in Greene County.

"The hardest part was being away from the family. Living conditions were all right so the worst part was being away and since I just had my daughter it was hard. That was the main thing, everybody was away from home and wanted to get back," he stressed.

Spec. Ortega said he is weighing his options, but may make a career of the military. If not, he plans to attend school, get some training and try and get a good job.

"I've thought about it. It's not set in stone right now. I like it so it (the military) may last," he said.

Spec. Ortega also pointed out that he was able to forge many very good friendships with the other men in his unit.

"We all became real close, like brothers. There was ups and downs, but for the most part, everybody got along real good and had everybody's back. It was real good to have everybody, if you were having problems, to talk too. That helped. I made a lot of friends," he stated.

For now, he's glad to be back home.

But if his unit is mobilized again for active duty in the future, Spec. Ortega says he will be ready to serve with the rest of his citizen soldier buddies, who are truly our "hometown heroes."

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com or nschneider@gcdailyworld.com.

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I am so proud of my son, And of the rest of the group that had to leave their families, sacrificing their jobs, not being able to watch their children do the things they do for the first time. I missed my son Jason and felt like the world sucked all the air out of me while he was gone. And I am so thankful he is home and safe.

-- Posted by ptodd on Sat, Feb 7, 2009, at 2:35 PM

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