Writing stories about members of our military is a privilege and a learning experience.

For example, the service member’s branch of service determines what they are called. Soldiers serve in the Army, sailors in the Navy, and airmen in the Air Force. Of course, Marines are Marines. It’s a huge breach in etiquette to use the wrong terminology.

Recently, a reader asked for some back issues of the series. He is stationed at Camp Stanley, South Korea. A quick google search revealed that Camp Stanley is an Army post. So I told the soldier I would be glad to send the issues.

When he answered on Facebook, I saw that he had been stationed at Parris Island and 29 Palms – Marine bases!

Fortunately, SGT Austin Sanford forgave my mistake because he’s been both, first a Marine and then a soldier, and he allowed me to tell his story.

Austin Sanford graduated from Mountain Valley High School in 1998. He joined the Marines until 2005, then the Army in 2006. Now he is known as SGT Sanford. His journey began for two reasons – family pride and school avoidance!

SGT Sanford explained, “What motivated me to enlist I would have to say to make my parents proud. That was the number one reason but a close second was I wanted a break from going to school. My dad was in the Army and everyone told me growing up that I was just like my dad. So I figured I would follow in his footsteps and join the military.”

In the Marine Corp, he was a truck driver. He continued that job in the Army. In both branches, he traveled throughout the U.S. and overseas.

SGT Sanford listed his bases and posts, “While I was in the Marines I got training in Parris Island, SC; Camp Geiger, NC; Ft.

Leonardwood, MO. After training I was stationed in 29 Palms, CA; Okinawa, Japan; Mt. Fuji, Japan; and Quantico, VA. I also did some training in the Philippines and Thailand.”

He continued, “Once I joined the Army, I was stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY. While stationed at Ft Campbell, I was deployed to Kuwait in 2006 to 2007 where my unit hauled equipment and supplies from Kuwait all over Iraq. I deployed again to Kuwait in 2008 to 2009 and my unit did convoy security for the convoys hauling equipment and supplies all over Iraq. I then deployed to Afghanistan 2011 to 2012 and we again did convoy security all over southwest Afghanistan. I then moved to my current duty station Camp Stanley, South Korea.”

So what caused the switch between branches?

“I left the Marines to be closer to my family,” Sgt. Sanford explained. “Once I got out and moved back home, I found that trying to get a job to support my then family of five was not going to be easy. I decided after six months of little luck finding work to join the Army. As you can tell this didn’t help keep me close to my family because I have been out of the country every year except 2010 at some point. It was a hard choice to make but with the support of my wife and family I think it was the right choice for us.”

SGT Sanford wants the folks back home to know that service members are very thankful for everything people do for them.

He said, “For example I was on my way home to see my family for my R&R (mid tour leave) during my first deployment. It was a week after Christmas and I was flying from Atlanta to Nashville. A lady gave me her seat on the plane just so I could get home four hours earlier. Another example is the signs that are hung up around Rumford for the service members that are away from home. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it means a lot to someone like me.”

He urges people to continue those random acts of kindness for service members.

SGT Sanford described, “The ways you can support service members is to adopt a unit or a service member that is overseas. Send them cards or care packages because there is nothing like getting mail when you are gone. It lets people know that they are being thought of which means a lot. Service members don’t care if they know who sends the cards. It is just nice to know you are thought of.”

Like other service members, he cautions people to take what they see in the media with a grain of salt.

SGT Sanford explained, “I also would like people to know not to believe everything they read or see in the news. All they want you to do is see the bad things that happen. Don’t let this fool you there are a lot of good things that happen that go unreported!”

While he serves in South Korea, his support team is keeping the home fires burning in Clarksville, TN. That support team includes his wife, Fawne, who is a graduate of Telstar class of 1998.

SGT Sanford said, “We have been married for 15 years and we have four great kids — Austin, age14; Trysta, age 11; Chyanne, age 8; and three-year-old Macayla.”

SGT Sanford is the son of Darla Sanford of Dixfield and Wayne Sanford of Island Falls. His brother, Wayne, also lives in Dixfield.

This is the 29th in a series about graduates from Mountain Valley High School who are serving our country in the military.

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