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Minnesota National Guard
This I Believe assignment teaches a lesson

When seventh grade language arts and reading teacher Sarah Sabelko challenged her students to write an essay on what they have come to value and believe through their life experiences, she never expected one of her students to write an essay so touching that National Public Radio would want to broadcast it on its show

Alyssa Jacobs, 12, of Roberts, wrote her essay on how she has come to value flexibility

" I mean being able to change your life to fit a situation at the drop of a hat Whether it's by choice or unwillingly"
The flexibility Jacobs has learned is a result of her father's, Dan Jacobs, military career and recent deployment to Iraq

"When was the last time you had someone you loved taken away from you? Was it for a month? A year? Chances are you've had someone permanently taken away from you But the difference between death and going to war is when someone you love goes to war, you know that they are out there somewhere and in danger every second, but you are not permitted to see them"
According to Jacobs' mom, Vivi, the "daddy's girl" has had a hard time dealing with her father being so far away
"Uncle Sam once said 'We want you' But why did they want MY dad?"

Dan Jacobs attended St Croix Central High School until his junior year when his family moved to Somerset After graduating early in 1978, he married Vivi and joined the Army

The family has been stationed in Ft Bragg, NC, Ft Rucker, Ala and Germany After six years he left active duty and flew helicopters for off shore drilling and then flew medical transport helicopters in Oklahoma City, Okla and Sioux Falls, SD Although he was no longer on active duty, he always remained in the Army National Guard When the family lived in South Dakota, Dan was offered a full-time position with the Minnesota National Guard at Holman Field in St Paul, Minn, and the family has been in the area ever since

Dan's first deployment was in March of 2006 He was stateside for six months at Ft Hood, Texas so the family was able to see him occasionally, as well as for two weeks in August before he left for Iraq

"I remember the day when my father broke the news that would change my family's life We were all sitting in the living room about to watch a movie we had rented from Mr Movies The screen had went blue as my mom paused it 'Guys, I have some news to tell you,' my father had said "What is it?" my second-grade-self said, unprepared for what was coming next 'I'm going to have to go to Iraq for a year It's not up to me, the government has told me I have to go,' he said Fists clenching, and jaw tightening, I started to fight back tears I kept thinking and procrastinating what was going to happen to our family"
The deployment was tough for the entire family Vivi said her husband's deployment was very difficult for her son, Adam, 17

"Because of the age he was at and knowing full well the implications and risks involved, and the fact that he had to take on a lot of the responsibilities around the house"
Alyssa could tell she wasn't the only one hurting as a result of her father being away

"Over the course of that year, long and lonely, my brothers and I didn't have a dad, my mom didn't have a husband, and my brother had to take on a great deal of new responsibilities that were once my dad's I learned to appreciate each and every person in our family in a whole new way The only way we could talk to my dad was over the webcam and sometimes we couldn't even do that Dad was able to tune in for about an hour of our Christmas and he sent gifts through the mail"

Vivi appreciated having the webcam keep the family connected while her husband was gone

"Sometimes we could hear the mortars exploding in the background or hear jets taking off Sometimes we just had him on the webcam while we were eating dinner"
Dan returned in August 2007, which Vivi said was a readjustment for everyone

"Things never returned to 'normal' but rather a new normal"

Vivi says she is glad her daughter wrote the essay "She never really talked about her fears, her feelings or what was going on in that pretty little head of hers"

Vivi said her family tried to carry on as normally as they could, adding that there wasn't really anything else they could do

While Vivi appreciates all the support from family and friends, she says, " if they have never been through this, they could never begin to understand Dad's not just out of town on a business trip, Dad is half a world away flying a helicopter in a place where some people want to bring him down"

Although having her father away at war will never be easy for Alyssa, she says she knows her family will get by, like they have done in the past

"My dad is going back for his second tour of duty Since his last deployment my brother, Nathan, enlisted in the Army and trained, specializing in chemical He earned the leadership award at Ft Benning My father leaves on November 27, 2010, my mom's birthday He will miss my 13th birthday, Adam's 18th birthday, and all of my dance events However, he is coming back for four days for Christmas and two weeks for my brother's graduation We will miss him lots but will get through it like we did before"

To read the full version of Alyssa's essay go to: wwwnewrichmond-newscom

By Ashley Halladay, New Richmond News
Published October 29 2010

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