Open arms welcomed Army Spc. James Bearup home as he stepped off the airplane and into the long-awaited embrace of his family. Back from Afghanistan for just 15 days, Bearup’s 16-month-old son, James, refuses to let him out of his sight.
“It’s wonderful,” said Fawn, Bearup’s wife. “I have been waiting for this for a long time.”
A public presentation was organized around Bearup as soon as Alan Humphries, pastor of the Soldotna Church of God, received an e-mail from him.
“He e-mailed me from Afghanistan. He knew he was coming home and he asked me what I thought about him speaking,” Humphries said. “Our purpose is to give our community a firsthand update on what’s happening over there.”
The presentation, at 7 p.m. Friday at the Soldotna Church of God, will feature patriotic contemporary music performed by the youth worship band from the church.
“We’re focusing on young people, but everyone’s welcome,” Humphries said. “A question-and-answer session will be part of the service for anyone who has questions about Afghanistan.”
Humphries expects a good crowd, including Bearup’s father, Tom Bearup, former Soldotna mayor.
Bearup will speak about his activities in Afghanistan, which he said are helpful to the people there.
“We are helping the society support themselves,” he said. “We’re training their police and their military. We’re doing humanitarian missions and opening up schools.”
Bearup described his average day in Afghanistan as being unpredictable.
“Each day’s a little bit different,” he said. “My typical day is everything from talking to the troops and seeing how they’re doing to running the Community Ministry Center with the chaplain.”
Maintaining the Community Ministry Center, complete with a big-screen TV, satellite and games, is one of Bearup’s many responsibilities. He also is responsible for protecting the chaplain whenever he goes outside and to conduct services in the field.
One of the things Bearup said he misses most is Taco Bell, but not as much as he misses his family.
“The hardest thing is being separated from my family. I left my son when he was 5 months old, and now he’s 16 months old. He’s running around and trying to talk.”
He estimates he’ll be done in Afghanistan by this summer, when he’ll be returning to Alaska. Meanwhile, he’ll return to his task of helping rebuild the society of Afghanistan on Jan 3.
“We’re doing a great job over there,” Bearup said. “We need to be over there. I can’t express how much good we’re doing.”
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