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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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One Student: Called Back to Afghanistan

Brian Jaramillo was visiting relatives in Queens when the call came.  At first, he could barely process it.

“It hit me a couple hours after I got the call. Just because, I had plans, you know?  It’s just all bad timing,” Jaramillo said.

Brian was talking about the rest of his life.  He’s a student at Stony Brook University, who is majoring in technological systems management.  He is also a veteran who spent seven years in the U.S Navy.  After leaving the service, he joined the Navy Reserve thinking that he would have ample time to finish college before being called to active duty.

The call, which came in January, informed the 26-year-old vice president of the Veteran Students Organization at Stony Brook that he was wrong.  He was being deployed to the Middle East.

He’s going to Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s orders to send 30,000 troops there. He dropped all of his classes in order to fulfill his duty overseas, but he’s not complaining.  His story is one of a life interrupted but it is also a story of patriotism.

When Brian came back to the U.S after finishing seven years in the Navy, he spent six months in Teaneck, N.J, at his parents’ house searching tirelessly for a government job.   But, he couldn’t find anyone who would hire him without a bachelor’s degree.

And, he couldn’t forget about the Navy.  He rejoined the Navy Reserve on Oct. 21, 2009, in Amityville to be close to Stony Brook.

“I thought I was never gonna get back in.  I was out for good.  But in those six months, I don’t know what it was, but this patriotism just really grew, got a lot stronger, much more love for the Navy.  I decided to join again,” Brian said.

Brian started taking classes at Stony Brook University and moved into a dorm room in the spring semester of 2009. He was looking forward to starting a new chapter of his life without interruptions—confident that it would take at least two years for him to be called to active duty.  He was determined to graduate by the spring of 2011.

Brian was at his Aunt and uncle’s house on Jan. 6, in Queens, when he got the call from a Navy personnel specialist notifying him that had received orders to deploy to the Middle East.

“They told me I was ‘mobilizing,’ he said.  “But, ‘mobilizing’ means anywhere.  And he said, ‘Could be Cuba, could be Kuwait, could be Iraq, could be Afghanistan.’ After the presidential order, it seemed most likely that I was going to go to Afghanistan.”

His cousin, Alex, was sitting next to him when Brian hung up with a look of disbelief. He told Alex cousin the news and that he had to keep it a secret from the rest of the family until Brian was ready to tell them.

Then he told his father.

“I asked him, ‘Dad, how would you feel about me going to the Middle East?’”

“Well son, I know you love the military and I support you in anything you want to do, said his father. “But if there is another option, look into it.”

“Well, what if I don’t have an option?” said Brian.,

Well what do you mean?’ said his father.

“I said, ‘I got the call.  I gotta go.’  He didn’t really believe me.’”

It took one month and three days of waiting after the call for Brian to find out that he was officially going to Afghanistan. He said that it usually takes five days to find out the location of deployment after initial notification but due to an administrative issue, he had to wait much longer.

His father, Luis Jaramillo, who everyone calls “Fernando”, served one year in the Columbian Army when he was 17-years-old.  Fernando says he is not happy that his son is going to Afghanistan and that his wife is worried.

“Everybody’s affected,” Fernando said. “My friends, my family, my little kids.  They’re thinking about him.  But, well, it’s one of those trips that we always hope that he’s going to come back.  And that’s the major thing, you know?”

The first few weeks of the semester were mentally hard for Brian to endure because he had many unanswered questions running through his head.

“When I’m in class and I can’t concentrate, my mindset’s just not there.  I wish it was just one thing. There’s just too many things in my head to even pay attention.  What am I gonna do when I get back? Am I gonna come back in time? Am I gonna come back alive?  What should I tell my teachers? Should I just take advantage of this and just hang out in my dorm?”

Brian is the vice president of the Veteran Students Organization at Stony Brook University. Byung Sa, the president of the club, said that they are planning on sending care packages to Brian while he is away in Afghanistan.

Brian, who was born in Queens, lived in Columbia from age three to 13. He moved back to America with his father and step-mother, both of whom currently live in Teaneck, N.J. He graduated from the New York City Museum School in a class of 26 students, none of whom enlisted in the military.

Brian was only 17-years-old when an advertisement for the Navy at a Lowes Multiplex Cinema in Manhattan, sparked his interest in the service.  The advertisement offered the chance to travel the world, make money and have his college tuition paid for after he finished.  To Brian, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.  A year later, he enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Japan shortly after.  He traveled to more than 14 countries as a sailor and the G.I. bill is paying for him to attend Stony Brook.

Brian never had to carry a gun during his prior seven years while in the Navy, but believes that will change when he goes to Afghanistan.  He also said that he will undergo a month of extra training before he deploys.

He would not reveal what tasks he will be performing as an operation specialist in Afghanistan and he won’t tell his family either. Instead, he said he’ll reassure them that they have no reason to worry.

While Brian is away at his tour, he’ll miss his 14-year-old sister, Liza’s 15 birthday and the birth of his goddaughter.  He will also celebrate his 27th birthday in the Middle East.

Liza Jaramillo was planning on having a quinceañera—a Latin American celebration for a girl’s 15th birthday—in November, but now she’s changed her mind.

Brian said that when he told Liza that he was going to Afghanistan he asked her, “’Would you consider doing a sweet sixteen instead?’ And right away she said, ‘Yes.’ And that was just… I love her. Now, I’m going to make sure she gets her super sweet sixteen.”

Liza said that she felt that her quinceañera, which is usually a family celebration, would not have been the same without him and that she will miss her brother while he is away.

“Usually when I call him, I need advice or something. He’s always there for me.  And, he’s really funny. He cheers me up a lot. I’m gonna miss him and hopefully he will be safe over there.”

Fernando says the family will be able to celebrate Liza’s birthday once Brian returns.  “We missed out on six or seven major holidays without him.  But, one more?  Well, if he comes back alive, that’s the best holiday we can have.” Fernando said.

And, Brian’s best friend, Ernesto Casado and his wife, Sara, of C.A., are expecting their second child to be born on March 23. Ernesto said that Brian will be the godfather of their daughter and they plan on waiting to baptize her until he returns home.

“Our prayers go out to him and we’re going to miss him but I have faith that he’s going to be alright and he’ll make it back. Then, we can sit back and drink a nice bottle of pinot grigio and reminisce.”

Jaramillo, reactivated in Amityville on March 5 and left for training a few days after.  He hopes to return to Stony Brook University for the spring semester in 2011, which is the semester that he originally planned on graduating.

After graduation, Brian hopes to enter the Navy as an active duty, full-time, officer and serve a full 20 years until he can retire.

Despite the phone call that changed all of Jaramillo’s plans, he said that would not have it any other way.

“The best decision of my life was joining the Navy,” he said.  “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way, without a few hiccups along the way, but it’s all part of maturing and growing up.”

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