Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 21, 2013
Call to duty
Brooksville teacher—and army reservist—leaves for Kuwait
Brooksville teacher and army reservist Joe Devine leaves for a year of active military duty on December 3. On Veterans Day, he visited each classroom, to talk about his deployment to Kuwait and let students see his equipment.
by Anne Berleant
Joe Devine has traded his civilian duties as a science and math teacher for a one-year stint in Kuwait with the U.S. Army.
“Nobody wants to go, but when it’s your turn, then you go,” he said in a recent interview.
Devine will first fly to Fort Jackson in South Carolina in December to finish processing into active duty status. Ten days later, he leaves for Kuwait.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” he said. “It’s not something I would volunteer for, but [reservists] all know we could get deployed…We’re ready to accept the responsibility.”
Devine began his military career in 1992, and spent seven years, mainly in Haiti and South Korea.
In South Korea, Devine was a combat engineer. “I built obstacles to prevent the enemy from moving around, and blew obstacles up if they were in our way,” he said.
He left active duty as a captain at the end of 1999. “I’ve been in the reserves ever since,” he said.
Devine was first called up for active duty in 2003. He served a year in Kuwait, supporting ground troops in Iraq by improving roads and base camps.
“[The Army] makes sure the troops have everything they need,” he said. “If something needs to be built, [Army] engineers build [it].”
Devine now holds the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. When he reaches Kuwait in mid-December, his European Command unit will be involved as engineer-planners, not as construction engineers. But he’s not sure what exactly the army will have him do outside of engineering.
“That’s pretty broad, but other than that, that’s all I really know.”
On Veterans Day, students at Brooksville Elementary School had the opportunity to see Devine in uniform and, even better for the younger students, he said, handle some of his equipment. His leave of absence began on November 18, but the next day he was back, to eat Thanksgiving lunch with staff and students, watch a farewell slideshow/video, and say good-bye.
The school cook, Susanne Dodge, baked him a cake; the teachers gave him a Maine flag signed with their names, and the school board packed him a box of treats.
Devine is also taking the Mrs. Andrews Flat Stanley, a cut-out paper drawing inspired by the Flat Stanley Project but designed as the school secretary. (Worldwide, Flat Stanleys travel while students plot their journeys.) The Mrs. Andrews Flat Stanley’s last big trip was to Alaska.
“She goes everywhere,” said Devine.
Devine leaves his wife in Orland and family members in Cherryfield. His deployment lasts until December 2014.
“I may come home with some stories,” he said. “I’ll be back.”