Soldier returns home for holidays

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 17, 2004

The family of Greg Pittman received an early Christmas present this year.

Pittman, an operations officer in the United States Army, returned home shortly before Thanksgiving after being overseas in Kuwait for nine months serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Not only were his wife, Daun, and three children, Noel, Heartlee and Preslee glad to see the soldier return home, but the children and faculty at Luverne High School were as well. Pittman, 38, was hired to teach science and history three months before being deployed to war.

"It feels great to be home," Pittman said. "I was supposed to be there a full year, but they got us out early. We weren't the only ones leaving early."

Although Pittman admitted his wife does most of the Christmas shopping, he did come home bearing gifts. A few weeks after his return, he presented Crenshaw County Board of Education Superintendent Kathi Wallace and Luverne Principal Earl Franks with an American Flag, which was flown in Kuwait for one day during his deployment.

"The idea behind the flags and certificates were a way to show support to our employers for supporting our efforts," Pittman said. "They go through a lot finding someone to fill our spots while we are gone."

Wallace said she was delighted that Pittman remembered his employer while serving his country as well as having him return home safe and sound.

"We are delighted that Greg has returned home safely," she said. "We are so proud of him for serving our country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. I am especially proud of the United States Flag and certificate that Mr. Pittman presented to me on behalf of the Board."

The flags flew over Camp Victory in Kuwait on Oct. 17, 2004, where Pittman was stationed.

"We plan to display it in the Boardroom of the Crenshaw County Board of Education," Wallace added.

Pittman's commander also signed a letter of authenticity, which was presented with each flag.

"We thought it was a neat idea and it's worked well," Pittman said.

Camp Victory was a deployment and re-deployment camp. As troops came into port, they would stay at Camp Victory before they went to Iraq. When their time was up, they would return to Camp Victory and get ready to go home.

"Basically, as Operation Officer I made sure the troops had life support," Pittman said. "What I mean by that is to make sure they had a place to sleep, meals, water, latrine and showers. I took care of the soldiers that went into battle and came back. We tried to tend to their needs because they saw a lot of things. Some of those soldiers were not much older than the children I had been teaching."

Pittman, who has been a teacher for 12 years, has also taught at Crenshaw Christian Academy, Pike County, Abbeville Christian and Autaugaville. He admitted he missed his students at Luverne, but his family was on his mind all the time.

"The main thing was I missed my family, I missed my girls," Pittman said.

As for the differences between Alabama and Kuwait, Pittman said the two are like night and day.

"It's very different over there than what I'm accustomed to here," he said. "First of all, you don't see any grass or trees, it's desert. The temperature during the wintertime is 50 degrees and during the summer it gets up to 140. Believe it our not, there's different types of wildlife, everything from large lizards to scorpions and big spiders. The environment is very different, as well as the people. Their customs are difficult to get used to because you have to deal with a lot of people from Kuwait."

Fortunately, there were never any threats at Camp Victory during Pittman's tour. He was also delighted that he was able to stay in constant contact with his family.

"Communication with family was great, especially where we were at," Pittman said. "I was e-mailing everyday to my wife and I could make phone calls pretty much everyday. It's very limited up in Iraq."

As for his holiday return, Pittman said he couldn't have asked for better timing.

"It's a blessing," he said. "Originally, I was going to be back in February and I was going to miss Thanksgiving and Christmas."