Teacher prepares for deployment, bids class goodbye on Election Day

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(Host) Election Day means different things, at different times to different people. For Brattleboro Middle School teacher Chris Day, election day this year marks the end of classes for at least a year, and probably longer. Day is one of 730 Vermont National Guardsman recently called to active duty in the Middle East.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The kids at Brattleboro Area Middle School are wearing yellow ribbons in honor of Mr. Day, a much loved social studies teacher.

In his other life, the 37-year-old teacher is First Lieutenant Day, part of the Rutland-based second tank battalion of the 86th brigade. Day and about 600 other members of his unit leave November 15 for training in Mississippi.

Sometime in January they’re headed to the Middle East. The orders are still sketchy, despite the fact that Day will be second in command of a company of 110 soldiers. He thinks they’ll be protecting strategic infrastructure in Kuwait.

(Day) "And any mission that we’re looking at or kind of eyeballing right now is subject to change." (Laughs.)

(Keese) It’s been a year of uncertainty for Day and everyone in his unit. They’ve been on alert since last spring. Before that they were preparing for a possible mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For Day, it’s meant giving up coaching, putting off classes for his master’s degree, and putting off more children. For his wife Sarah it’s almost too painful to talk about

(Sarah Day) "These are citizen soliders, they’re not regular military and… It’s a lot to ask of families and communities. We have a three year old daughter and the thought of him not seeing a year of her life is it’s a huge sacrifice and I’ve been sort of thinking to myself, why are we having to ask this of our National Guardsmen?"

(Keese) Sarah Day says her husband is a dedicated father. She has a clothing business that keeps her on the road a couple days a week. During those times, Chris does the parenting.

Day says he hates to leave them both. But there are things he likes about being in the military: the chance to test his stamina and be a leader, the lure of new experience. He’s already bought a copy of ‘The Middle East for Dummies’ and a book called the Crisis of Islam.

Sarah Day believes the war in Iraq is a mistake. Chris sees it differently.

(Day) "I would love to see democracy succeed in Iraq, that idea of self determination and being able to choose who your government is and choice in general. Yeah I think it’s okay what we’re doing over there. I hope to hell it’s successful – soon." (Laughs.)

(Keese) Day says his differences with Sarah over the war don’t necessarily translate into differences in the voting booth. As for his students, who gave him a farewell party on Monday, they’ve already studied Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent. Day expects to have a lot more to talk about when he gets back.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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