After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, James Goddard felt a surge of patriotism and enlisted in the Army.
“I felt it was my duty to serve,” Goddard, now 37, said.
He was able to delay entry into the Army until 2002, while he pursued an associate degree from the University of North Georgia.
Goddard attended basic training and airborne school at Ft. Benning and then headed to Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, with the 172nd Stryker Brigade.
The 172 deployed to Iraq from 2005-06 and was “getting shot at and blown up after the first couple days,” he said.
In Mosul in northern Iraq, conditions were tough. They were not unlike the ones today in Afghanistan, where it’s difficult to identify the enemy, Goddard said.
“A lot of my friends deal with PSD-related problems from that deployment because it was pretty intense,” he said. “Was it traumatic? Yes. Was it stressful? Yes.”
After Iraq, Goddard returned stateside. He bought a log cabin home in Athens and went to forestry school at the University of Georgia, graduating in 2009.
But that did not close the chapter on his military service. He went through officer training school in 2009 and, between then and 2013, served one tour in Alaska and one tour in Afghanistan.
He has been in the Army Reserves since 2013 in jobs ranging from survival instructor to officer in charge of resupply soldiers.
As a reservist, he’s also been called to duty several times – including once for another tour in Afghanistan and once for a tour in Wisconsin.
New orders only recently arrived that took Goddard and his family to Illinois in October and likely for the next three years.
Goddard said he wasn’t unhappy about another tour of duty.
Like many returning vets, he’s had difficulty transitioning back into the civilian world. It’s hard finding private sector work that pays what the Army does after 13 years, Goddard said.
Vets are often pigeon-holed into certain civilian jobs. In his case, he was encouraged to consider positions as a police officer or game warden, both relatively low-paying jobs, he said.
“Our faith in God and in our church community has really helped us going along,” Goddard said. “And I just keep having to bounce back into the Army again.”