A Brooklet man who is a medic in the 3rd Infantry Division has made a career of serving his country, with the support and sacrifice of his family behind him.
Staff Sgt. Jason Yurek, originally from Knoxville, Tenn., joined the U.S. Army in 1989, and has seen deployments to Bosnia, Kuwait and three to his current post in Iraq. And each time his wife Shannon and three children, Patrick, 14, Meghan, 11, and Nolan, 7, are at home anxiously awaiting his return.
During his military career, Yurek has served as a Chaparral & Redeye Missile crew member, completed live fire training in Crete, Greece, trained on the Avenger Air Defense System, worked as a Stinger Missile operator, as well as served as a senior line medic and an evacuation and treatment non commissioned officer.
In Iraq, he serves as the personal security detachment medic for Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, Yurek said his responsibilities overseas lie in the health, welfare and combat readiness of his team.
“If we have a mission or if we have to go outside the wire I go with the team to help provide security for the general in case anything goes on,” Yurek said. “I’m there to render first aid on site.”
After serving in the Army for 10 years, it was in 1999 that he said the “good Lord guided me to become a medic” leading him to reenter active duty in March 2000.
His experience in the field makes him an “invaluable member” of the commanding general’s detachment, according to Sgt. 1st Class Gary White. White serves as the detachment’s non commissioned officer and personal security officer to Maj. Gen. Cucolo.
“Since this is his third deployment to Iraq Staff Sgt. Yurek has seen it all, making him well trained and experienced to handle any issue that may arise,” White said. “And like with any small unit, we have to do a lot of cross training to ensure that our mission is successful. Staff Sgt. Yurek has excelled at personal security and infantry tactics, communications, and planning and recon.”
Five deployments can strain any family, but Yurek said his wife Shannon, a Bryan County Middle School teacher, stays strong, and busy, taking their children to different after school activities and appointments.
Shannon Yurek said she believes one of the most difficult parts of being a military family is “releasing the mom and the dad role” when her husband returns home.
“I do have to be independent and make all of the decisions and when he comes home he has to take his rightful place as the head of the household and to be able to lead our house whenever he’s home,” she said.
“With the numerous deployments and train ups, my wife can be challenged sometimes, but she’s pretty steadfast in her ways. She’s pretty stubborn, but she’s got strong support from our family readiness group and also from our local church,” said Yurek, who attends St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Statesboro.
Yurek’s career in the Army has made sacrifice necessary. When he was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom-3, his family moved from Pembroke to Brooklet.
“For the longest time I was still deployed and I wasn’t able to find the neighborhood on Google Maps or anything because it was a private drive, so while I was deployed I didn’t know where I lived,” Yurek said.
“He had to have a lot of faith in me to be able to make sure that I was making a wise decision, which was very trusting. I guess that’s one of the most important things about being a military family,” Shannon Yurek said. “I have to trust that the decisions he makes over there are the right decisions and he has to trust that the decisions that I make for our house and for our kids are the right decisions for what’s happening.”
Enjoying the time that their family has together keeps life close to normal for the Yureks. Shannon Yurek said they have celebrated Christmas in October to take advantage of her husband’s leave time.
“Holidays are not as important as being together and celebrating when we are together,” she said. “We’ve had [soldiers] home for Easter dinner and Thanksgiving dinner. That is truly another family for him. It is definitely a job that you don’t leave at the end of the day.”
Having family members serving overseas can be worrisome, but Shannon Yurek said she and her children “try not to dwell on what cannot be changed.”
“This is his job and he’s happy with his job and that’s what is important,” she said. “He’s accomplishing something being a medic, he’s helping other soldiers and we have to be satisfied with that. I guess that’s where we get our solace from.”
While it is never easy to leave a family behind, seeing the progress in Iraq is what makes it worthwhile to Yurek.
“When you see an entire country get out and vote and show you their index finger where they had purple ink that shows where they voted and watch them walk through and show to you the foundations that make up their democracy, it’s a pretty amazing experience to be an eye witness to, because you see history happen right there,” he said.