Local man gets ready to serve in Iraq, again | SierraSun.com

Local man gets ready to serve in Iraq, again

As one of only 230 active duty firefighters with the U.S. Army, Josh Maehler will return to Iraq at the end of September.

Maehler, of Truckee, spent six months in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, and will return for a full year, this time leaving behind not only his family, but his new bride.

“I’m worried about his safety,” said his wife, Erin Aquino.

Maehler and Aquino were married in April and have never been apart longer than a week.

As Maehler ships out, Aquino will return to her hometown of Lacey, Wash. to look for a job and count down the 365 days until Maehler’s return.

“I’m scared to go back. It’s the first time I’ve really been away from my wife,” said Maehler. “It’ll really take a toll on me.”

His parents share both the concern and the pride.

“Things are a little heated over there [in Iraq] right now,” said Maehler’s mother, Melinda Maehler. “I’m proud of him for serving his country. But on the other side, I’m his mom. He’s my first born and I love him. Maybe the Peace Corps next time.”

Because he had such positive experiences in Iraq the first time, Josh Maehler said he looks forward to serving abroad again. However, he said he finds the portrayal of the war different than what he went through. For example, his unit helped a village and local children right outside his base in many ways. He and nine of his fellow firefighters were even awarded for their heroism.

“A lot of people say terror runs the country,” said Maehler. “But when you’re over there doing helpful things like building schools, giving out supplies, helping with water treatment plants, food, etc. A lot of the stuff that happens over there, it makes you feel good.”

A Truckee High School graduate in 2000, Maehler enlisted with the Army in May of 2003.

Excited by the fire sciences in entry-level college courses, Maehler entered specialty training with the fire academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas following Army boot camp. With 150,000 active U.S. soldiers, only 230 are firefighters.

The events of Sept. 11 inspired Maehler to enter the service. In seeing all the people whose lives were taken, particularly police and firefighters, he said he wanted to do what they could no longer do.

“I’m very, very proud to serve my country,” said Maehler.

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