Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Chico family lives the reality of war


When Daniel Sagastume graduated from Marine Corps boot camp, he was not yet nineteen. Then came the unthinkable. "Four days after my son's graduation," his mother writes, "when the Towers crumbled, so did my world."

"We Also Serve: A Family Goes To War" ($17.95 in paperback from iUniverse; available in Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and Google e-book formats) is Nanette Sagastume's riveting story. A retired nurse practitioner and founder of what is now called the Military Family Support Group, Sagastume lays bare the emotions she and her husband Mario experienced even as Mario, a Vietnam War veteran, is dealing with PTSD.

"Daniel began to seek ways to be reassigned to the same infantry unit his father had served with, the Second Battalion, First Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division (known familiarly as 2/1). More specifically, he wanted to get assigned to the same company, Fox Company, and eventually the same platoon."

She writes: "With one percent of Americans volunteering to serve, there is a gap in awareness--even a 'disconnect'--about the military family's experience. ... I did not enlist; my service is involuntary. That is not to say that Mario and I oppose Daniel's decision; rather, we had no choice in the matter. Our role was to accept his life choice, adapt to it, and support him. When we military families offer our love and emotional support--waiting and worrying while our loved ones fulfill their duties--we also are in service to our country."

Labor Day, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, a suicide attack. Normally Daniel rode in the first truck of a convoy; that day he was assigned the second. It saved his life; seven of his comrades died. The experience changed Daniel forever.

"Often overlooked," says Sagastume, a recent guest at Lyon Books in Chico, "is the effect on the family that has loved, suffered, and endured with him both during his combat tour as well as the aftermath of adjustment. Indeed, I feel that families are uniquely vulnerable--more than at any time in history. With instant communication and the availability of live satellite television transmission, families often are witnesses to some of the very same events their warrior has experienced. Families also serve in today's virtual war."

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