When senior Jack Kuskie is at home, he plays sports, video games and with his family’s two golden labs. But now, stationed in Iraq, Jack spends his time playing soccer with the British forces he guards oil fields with.
“It’s weird to think I actually know someone over there. I feel so withdrawn from it, yet I know someone over there,” said Sara Buys, a junior geology major and Jack’s stepsister.
Jack, a sergeant with the 220th Military Policy Company in the 4th Platoon of the Colorado Army National Guard, is also a senior math major at CSU finishing his remaining 20 credits. He has been attending CSU since 1997, but took leave for seven months to serve in Hungry, Bosnia and Croatia. Although serving in Iraq may set him back a few semesters, his dedication to school remains.
“He has taken a couple of math books along with him to study whenever he can find the time,” said Pat Kuskie, Jack’s mother.
Jack left Fort Carson on Feb. 20, and flew to Kuwait, arriving on Feb. 27. He was officially activated for duty on Jan. 11, and reported for duty on Jan. 13 to begin his year of active duty.
“Since his arrival in Kuwait, he has seen camels, donkeys, sheep, lizards and rats,” Pat said. “He has watched hundreds of Kuwaiti men milling about. Most do not appear to work, instead they receive money from their government in return for oil. He has not seen any women.”
Jack, who has not seen combat in Iraq, spends his days guarding generals and oil fields with a group of British soldiers. He also attempts to keep the sand out of his face.
“The weather is beastly. It is very warm, nearly 90 degrees, every day. In the morning it is quite cool, almost chilly. The wind blows relentlessly and there is sand everywhere,” Pat said. “Jack has addressed the conditions by wearing his T-shirt over his face to protect himself from the sand. In Kuwait, the air is very polluted as a result of flares burning from so many refineries.”
Jack’s family and friends hope and pray he remains safe from much more than the sand and comes home soon.
“His photograph has been taken to a church in New Jersey by his aunt for Novena prayer and his picture is displayed in a classroom in New Jersey next to the words, ‘Our Hero,'” Pat said.
“People that have never met Jack send him letters thanking him for his service. Veterans of wars from times gone by salute me and thank me for my son’s service. I receive phone calls from business owners in the Aurora community, expressing their gratitude, family members that I have not heard from in decades call to say hello and extend their best wishes for his safety.”
Jack has received more than just prayers from well-wishers.
Letters, pistachios, baby wipes, hand drawings, magazines and sunflower seeds have poured in from a Girl Scout Troop in Denver and several elementary schools in New Jersey. He has also received care packages containing lip balm, sports sections from newspapers and “enough baked goods to fill a bakery,” Pat said.
He also receives a daily letter from his girlfriend, Janeen Bonacci, a recent CSU graduate.
“We have a lot of prayers going out. We tell him we’re proud of him and we thank him for doing his job and serving his country,” Buys said. “We want him to come home soon and to stay safe.”
Buys believes Jack’s service to America is a selfless act, but at the same time she is sad he even needs to be in Iraq. Pat agrees all soldiers commit selfless acts daily to protect the freedoms citizens exercise in the United States.
“It’s important for students to know that soldiers don’t draw the same distinctions that anti-war protesters do when it comes to speaking out against the war,” Pat said. “You can’t support our troops and not support our president. Our troops and our president, our Commander in Chief, are one and the same.”
“Soldiers are selfless Americans who have eagerly put their lives on the line for the freedom of speech that anti-war protesters enjoy. As you exercise your freedom of speech to express what may be anti-war sentiment, take a minute to drop a note to a solider and express your gratitude for their service. They risk their life every minute of every day in an increasingly sweltering desert, surrounded by the enemy, so that you can give voice to your point of view whether or not you support them or their Commander in Chief.”