Father’s return from Iraq celebrated
Talk about a busy 48 hours.
On Jan. 21, Maj. Drew Brickson returned home to Lansing from a four-month stint in Iraq. That evening he celebrated a belated Christmas with his sons, Benjamin, a first-grader at Lansing Elementary School, and Joseph, a preschooler, and his wife, Jodie. Early Jan. 22 (3 a.m., to be exact), Drew Brickson finished work on Ben's Pinewood Derby car. Later that morning, after his first "night" back home, he drove to Lansing Intermediate School's gym to serve in the Pinewood Derby pit crew and cheer his son on to a first-heat victory.
It was a long 48 hours, but it was a time Brickson said would stand out in his memory forever.
"It was just a neat father-son thing," he said of the experience. "One of the best things about coming home is to see my smiling son."
Brickson served in Iraq from the end of September to the end of January as part of the Center for Army Lessons Learned. His job was to study what different units were doing in Mosul and Baghdad and then bring the information back to the United States so soldiers here would "hit the ground running" when they got overseas.
"Bottom line: it's all about keeping them safer," he said.
He spoke Monday morning to Ben's first-grade class about what schools were like in Iraq and what the recent Iraqi elections had accomplished.
He also said that while he was glad to be back home, "it's a little colder here than in Iraq."
During his time in Iraq, his family stayed busy and tried not to count the days, Jodie Brickson said.
"(Drew) has given the illustration of us being on a river and the family continues to flow down the river but he's left offstream," Jodie Brickson said. "I kept encouraging the boys that he would be home soon and that he was doing an important job."
Drew and Jodie both emphasized how happy they were with the support of the Lansing community during Drew's absence.
"It makes life so much easier when you're in Iraq or Afghanistan to know that your family is being taken care of," Drew said. "One of the better things I've done in the military is to buy a house in Lansing."
He said just about everyone had offered support or help. Neighbors shoveled the Bricksons' driveway and hung holiday lights. For Thanksgiving, when Jodie's parents couldn't make it to Lansing, a neighboring family shared Thanksgiving dinner with the three stateside Bricksons.
In addition to neighbors, Jodie said the school also had been helpful. Janie Hodam, a counselor at Lansing Elementary, set up a weekly support group where Ben and others with close relatives who were deployed could go to talk about the experience.
"It seemed to be a very nice program for him to be in, just to have a time they could get together and talk about any fears and concerns they had," Jodie said.
The family also planned for the time when Drew would be home again.
"We just stayed optimistic and had things planned for when he came back," Jodie said. Drew, laughing, agreed.
"Over the phone Benjamin said he had four major things: Science City down in Kansas City - just got done doing that last week; the Marble Factory in Bonner Springs; the Wolf Lodge; and we've still got to go to the zoo," he said.
Jodie's birthday was on Sunday, and Drew said he was happy to be able to celebrate that with the family. And, of course, the family celebrated Christmas twice. In December, Jodie took Ben and Joseph to San Antonio to celebrate with her parents. But when Drew came home in January, they still had lights up and presents to unwrap.
"They knew that they'd have their own special Christmas with Dad," Jodie said. "We had, like, five Christmas trees up. Each one has a different theme and different decorations. They had a lot of fun with the anticipation that he would be home soon."
Now that he's back in Kansas, Drew will continue work with the Lessons Learned group, this time at Fort Leavenworth. Though he said it was impossible to predict when he might be overseas again, right now he was just enjoying the time with his family.
Remaining Lansing Elementary School relatives still overseas:
¢ Lt. Col. Michael Hamlet, serving with the 42nd Infantry Division and father of Alex Hamlet.
¢ Maj. Storm Reynolds, an assistant division engineer helping to rebuild schools, roads and hospitals. He is the father of Savannah Reynolds.
¢ CW4 (P) Kenny Cline, uncle of Richard Totleben, serving in Iraq with the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas.
¢ David Meredith, a civilian delivering supplies to military bases in Iraq and father of Allison Meredith.
¢ Staff Sergeant Charles Batorson, serving in Iraq for the second time and the father of Savannah Batorson.