Frankfort State-Journal "How could he leave this?"

Feb. 25, 2011 | By kentuckyguard
dwa By Paul Glasser Frankfort State-Journal [caption id="attachment_5495" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Staff Sgt. Klinton Burke, of Frankfort, and his wife, Jamie, kiss their 10-month-old daughter, Rylea. Klinton returned home from Afghanistan Feb. 4. State Journal/Hannah Reel"] (please visit the Frankfort State-Journal's website to see the story as well: How could he leave this?) Staff Sgt. Klinton Burke of Frankfort now has time to be a father to his 10-month-old baby after spending 11 months as a truck driver and mechanic in Afghanistan. Klinton, 30, was one of about 150 soldiers from the 2123rd Transportation Company in the Kentucky National Guard who returned home in early February. He's now spending time with his wife, Jamie, and daughter, Rylea. Klinton arrived in Afghanistan on March 22, 2010, and Rylea was born April 19. He came home to visit May 3-19 but didn't see her again until last week. Leaving for Afghanistan when he knew his daughter would soon be born was difficult, he says. It was also an emotional moment when he had to go back overseas. "It was the hardest thing a dad would have to do," he said. He was stationed at Bagram Airfield in eastern Afghanistan and was able to receive mail and packages every Tuesday. His wife sent candy, hunting videos and mini-DVDs she recorded of Rilea crawling and playing. "Tuesday was the day of the week I looked forward to," Klinton said. "I got to watch her grow up." Rylea likes to watch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV and dance along with the show's "Hot Dog" song. In a recent interview, Rylea wore a onesie with the words "My heart belongs to daddy." She played with toys, sucked on her bottle and cried briefly when her father prevented her from picking up the reporter's tape recorder. Klinton and Jamie said they plan to buy a new baby seat so Rylea can ride in Klinton's old Dodge truck. When she's old enough, Klinton said he wants to teach Rylea to hunt - it's one of his favorite pastimes. Klinton said he also enjoys giving his wife a hard time - they were married on Dec. 5, 2009, but had little time to be a family because of training and the mission to Afghanistan. He said he doesn't want to go back overseas. "Rylea's more important," Klinton said. He was previously deployed stateside in 2003 and 2004 as well as Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He was a mechanic at Camp Taji near Baghdad and said morale there was "through the roof." Although fighting between Sunni and Shiite factions raged through Iraq, Klinton was never attacked. However, the mission to Afghanistan was much more difficult. His unit traveled more than 600,000 miles on convoy escort missions. They were attacked 40 times, and five soldiers were seriously wounded. "We were not unscathed," Klinton said, with tears in his eyes. "The mental and emotional aspect of it probably took the worst hit. Seeing friends get hurt, we had to be soldiers instead of humans, if that makes any sense. We drove on. War doesn't make sense." But knowing his wife and baby were home helped keep him going. He also credited his truck partner Pfc. Jeremiah Fleming, from Fleming County, with helping him stay focused. "During the hard times he helped keep me sane," Klinton said. Another local soldier returned home with the 2123rd Transportation Company -Chris Adcock. He went to Franklin County High School with Klinton where he said the two were "trouble makers." Adcock was assigned to the headquarters platoon. Lt. Ed "Gus" LaFontaine IV, of Berea, received the Bronze Star for valor when he helped rescue two men from the 2123rd Transportation Company wounded by an explosion in an ambush. He is the grandson of Frankfort's Ed LaFontaine Jr., a World War II Navy pilot. His grandson has spent 12 years in the National Guard, and it was his second deployment. Ed LaFontaine IV doesn't say much about the incident for which he was decorated, according to this grandfather. "He doesn't brag about it," said Ed LaFontaine Jr. His grandson is a teacher and plans to open a pre-kindergarten school next year, Ed LaFontaine Jr. said. Nine other soldiers in the unit were also decorated with the Bronze Star, and 80 received the Combat Action Badge.

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