Amy Ellifritt knows what it’s like to be a soldier’s wife, and a soldier’s father. Her husband, Jim Sr., is on his way to Afghanistan for a year. And her only son, Jim Jr., is on his way to Iraq. Both are members of the Oregon Army Reserves.
Rev. Jim Ellifritt, an ordained UB minister, serves as superintendent of Northwest Conference and is director of the County-Wide Chaplaincy program, a donation-supported crisis intervention ministry. He and previously pastored the Friendship UB church in Vancouver. But for the next year, he’ll be going by the title Lieutenant Colonel Jim Ellifritt. Army Reserves unit has been called up to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure. He went on active duty in October, learning the Dari language spoken in Afghanistan. ” I have about 200 hours of reading, writing and speaking under my belt,” he says.
And now, he’s on his way to Afghanistan. He serves in the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade of the Army Reserve.
“As a father, I don’t mind going,” Jim says. “But I wish my son didn’t have to go. But it’s important, and the good thing is that we’re going at the same time and I’ll only have to be apart from him for a year, rather than longer.”
Jim Jr. is a sergeant in the 218th Field Artillery Battalion as an artillery forward observer. He was mobilized with the National Guard and sent to Fort Hood, Texas, at the end of October. He will be with the 39th Separate Infantry Brigage attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, and will probably be in Baghdad by February or March. He and his wife, Rachel, celebrated their first anniversary during the past year, and moved into their first house just three days before the mobilization. Rachel works at a law firm.
Jim and Rachel sold the two daycare centers they owned–something they had planned to do eventually, but which the deployment made urgent. “We have been preparing for the better part of six months for the deployment,” Jim says. “We believe this should streamline many of Debs responsibilities while I am gone. Overall I believe we are as prepared as any of the families that have had this challenge this year.”
This past year has been a busy one for me and the Army. January I spent three weeks in Louisiana. May I was fortunate to be able to go to Thailand for a month. It was a very different and very hot place. I was able to make three dives while I was there. Shortly after I got back I got the alert notification for Afghanistan. Since the first week of October I have been on active duty in the Portland area trying to learn Dari, the language spoken in Afghanistan. I have about 200 hours of reading, writing and speaking under my belt. By the time you get this I should be at Fort Bragg preparing for a year long tour in Afghanistan. It is going to be very unusual to be away from home on Christmas, this will be the first one I have completely missed in 27 years. I am grateful that I was able to spend Thanksgiving at home. The family will be looking forward to Jim being home for Christmas. I am grateful our tours are during the same period instead of back to back, I will miss him for 18 months instead of 2-3 years. There may be a chance of getting leave in the summer and meeting with the wives in Europe, Lord willing.
“I’m excited to be going,” Jim Sr. says. He likes the idea that he and his son will help people in faraway countries experience democracy, education, and a better life. “My daughter Stacy is 18, and she has the right to go to college. In Afghanistan, girls didn’t have that right until we got there. A lot of negative stuff is reported in the neews, but a lot more good is going on.”
Jim Jr. adds, “These Iraqi people have opportunities now to be free, and they’ve never had that before. I’m honored to feel I’m a part of that now.”