Home from Afghanistan, the Ups and Downs

By Bobbie O’Brien
TAMPA (2010-9-2) – With combat troops officially out of Iraq, attention is now on Afghanistan. So, WUSF checked in with Tampa airman, Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple. He’s been back from Afghanistan for four months and is experiencing the highs of being home and the lows of having spent time in a war zone.

“It’s so great to be back just to see something like this, seeing my boys out here playing, chasing the ball,” Temple said Wednesday morning at the Davis Islands dog park.

Playing with his dogs is one of the many things he missed while away for a year in Afghanistan. His golden doodles, Sam and Charlie, were happy to see him. But, Charlie still doesn’t like the sight of Temple’s duffel bag which he associates with Temple leaving.

SMSgt. Temple tosses the ball for his goldendoddle Charlie.

Temple celebrated his homecoming with a visit to his parents in Pennsylvania and a couple weeks of hiking with his wife in Maine. But, he’s also paid a physical price for a full year of wearing combat gear that weighs about 70 pounds.

“It’s taken a toll on my body,” Temple said. Since coming back, he’s had foot surgery and is going through physical therapy for his shoulder. “It’s a combination of wear and tear. And I’m just getting a little bit old too.”

For a year, Temple and nine other airmen were embedded with the U.S. Army. They trained Afghan soldiers, supplied combat outposts and conducted medical missions to outlying villages.

An encounter with a village boy prompted Temple to start a school supply drive. Before leaving, Temple’s team distributed more than 700 boxes of paper, pens and other school materials. (The school supplies drive continues – for more information click here.)

SMSgt. Temple enjoys a morning workout with his goldendoodles, Charlie and Sam, at the Davis Islands Dog Park.

Temple also kept a daily blog, Afghanistan – My Last Tour, and talked weekly with WUSF about his experiences. Since his return April 22nd, he has stayed in contact with the other nine members of his Air Force team and with his Afghan interpreter. Omid gives him updates on Afghanistan and Temple follows online news accounts like the Taliban’s recent use of poison to try to shut down girls’ schools.

“It really hits home. Sometimes I wish I was still back there to try to make a difference,” Temple said.

SMSgt. Temple at daybreak at the Davis Islands Dog Park.

This weekend, Temple will meet up with one of his former colleagues, Kit (Christopher) Lowe, a specialist with the Georgia Army National Guard who was wounded August 2009 in a firefight.

“I haven’t seen him since the day he was shot and departed the country. So, I’m really excited to drive up to Georgia this weekend and see him,” Temple said.
Since he’s returned, Temple has had time to reflect. During his conversations with WUSF from Afghanistan, he rarely talked about his faith. But now he says that’s how he and his team made it home.

Temple's team in prayer before mission in Afghanistan March 2010.

“We had a unique practice, a unique custom, every time before left for a mission we would say a prayer,” Temple said. “It was voluntary. But everybody on my team would participate and I just attribute it to my faith in God and bringing me back to my wife and my dogs.”

WUSF will continue to check in on SMSgt. Temple as he nears retirement and also plans to follow other active duty military, veterans and their families as they handle the day-to-day challenges of multiple deployments in wartime.

To listen to the related radio report, please click here.

To see Temple’s homecoming video, click on the icon below.

%d bloggers like this: