Kansas National Guard Staff Sgt. Rick Mounts, of Lehigh, frequently receives thanks for his service in Iraq, and he wants to reciprocate.
“I would like to send my thanks to everyone,” he said.
As a soldier, he has seen joyful homecomings and tearful goodbyes throughout the war. He thinks everyone who does their job, whether in the military or not, should be lucky enough to receive that kind of reception.
“It’s been outstanding,” he said.
Many people offer to take him out for a drink. Mounts said he doesn’t drink, but he’ll go with well-wishers for a soda.
Mounts returned Sept. 29 from his second deployment to Iraq. He also served deployments in Somalia and Kosovo.
“When I first joined the military, I was in need of a direction,” he said.
He joined at the suggestion of his father. He stayed because he felt it was his calling, giving three reasons: he can help others in need, provide stability for his family, and protect Americans.
Mounts left the armed forces after a divorce, but six months later he realized it was a bad decision for him. It took about three more years to return to duty because of injuries.
He has seen tremendous progress in Iraq.
“At first it was chaos,” he said.
Now more Iraqis seem to understand what stability requires. Mounts hopes to see Iraq able to stand on its own.
Soldiers’ living conditions in Iraq depend largely on where they are deployed. Housing ranges from tents to two-man buildings with air conditioning and cable, he said.
“The heat there was great,” Mounts said. “Other people were dying. They could not stand it.”
But he enjoyed the heat, which reached up to 132 degrees. He credited his upbringing in Southern California for giving him a high heat tolerance.
His latest deployment lasted 14 months, including training.
“Being away from my family that long was excruciating,” Mounts said.
He is married to Gina Mounts. He has four daughters: Kaitlin, Lauryn, Hayley, and Britney Mounts; and two stepsons: Jace and Tristen Hett.
Mounts expects to be redeployed in two to five years — whether to Iraq or somewhere else. He works for AGCO, of Hesston.
He said the most important thing he has learned in the military is discipline. He defined discipline as “order in the absence of orders.”
“To me, that would be the best lesson I can teach my kids,” Mounts said.
He said soldiers today are still using much of the same hardware Americans used in previous wars. He praised the “Ma Deuce” — .50-caliber M2 Browning Machine Gun — introduced during World War I. He called the machine gun indestructible.
Veterans from previous wars have been especially welcoming to soldiers returning from Iraq. He hopes to be able to provide that level of support for future soldiers.
“They were there at every airport we stopped off at,” he said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”