Local veteran, wife reflect on time served in Iraq - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Local veteran, wife reflect on time served in Iraq

BROWNSBORO, TX (KLTV) - Sergeant James Willard and his wife Desarae, of Brownsboro, remember all too well James's time serving in Iraq and the sacrifice it was for their young family.

"Nights were very lonely. There would be blackouts sometimes and I couldn't talk to him, which made me freak out. I couldn't watch the news because I didn't want to know anything that was going on. I didn't want to hear nothing," Desarae says.

James and Desarae had been married just a year and a half when he deployed to Iraq from Fort Hood in September 2010.

James says the hardest part of his deployment was leaving his toddler son, Levi, now almost 2, for almost a full year, knowing his wife was having to raise his son by herself.

James returned from Iraq in August 2011. He kept up with Levi and Desarae and the rest of his family the best he could, mainly by Skype.

"Before her webcam would even turn on, she would open her laptop, and as she grabbed her laptop she was saying he was going Da-da, da-da, da-da, da-da," James says. "He knew when she was grabbing the laptop that if she was opening it, he was going to talk to me."

"Every time he called and talked to us, we told him we're proud of you, keep your head up, just know that we're here, we're praying for you, keep your head up, and just keep doing a good job," says James's parents, Mike and Paula Willard. "And that's what we told both of our boys. We tell our boys that now."

James's older brother, Wayne, was also a Sergeant in the Army. He graduated from Army training on the morning of September 11th, 2001, and served in Iraq during some of the worst fighting in 2003 and 2004. He declined to interview with us on camera, saying it was just too hard to talk about those memories.

But, James says the Army has made him the man he is today.

"I'd do it all over again. It was rough, some of it was tough, but I can honestly say if I didn't do it, it wouldn't make me who I am today," says James.

Since he came home in August and left the Army in September, he's been readjusting to civilian life... living with his wife and son, learning how to parent again, and providing for his family.

"I'm actually looking for employment right now, taking care of my family. That's my biggest thing," James says.

The Senate passed part of the president's jobs bill that will help veterans like James Willard find work.

The bill would provide tax credits to companies who hire veterans and will provide employment counseling for those veterans and soldiers who will soon leave the military.

The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.

Copyright 2011 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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