Returning Marine: Afghanistan 'makes you appreciate America'
The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.
SEABROOK, N.H. — Sitting in her grandmother’s living room, petite and pretty Sara Adams looks nothing like the typical “leatherneck.”
But this 22-year old “Jarhead” just got back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines. After arriving back at San Diego’s Camp Pendleton, there was only one place she wanted to spend her two-week leave: at home in Seabrook, with family and her best friend Breann Nadeau. They’re the people she went to Afghanistan to protect.
The daughter of Jill York and John Adams and granddaughter of Sylvia Adams Bouchard, Sara Adams grew up in Seabrook, graduating with Winnacunnet High School’s class of 2008. She was finishing her first year at UMass Lowell as a criminal justice/psychology major when she decided to join the Marines.
“College is expensive, so I thought I’d look into another option,” Adams said. “I always liked the idea of the military. I liked the lifestyle. I knew I had the discipline to get through. It’s a pride thing. I wanted to be deployed. I wanted to be part of something big, to do my part.”
Her first choice had been the Army, but due to a fluke, the Marines got first crack at her. The Army recruiting office was closed for lunch when she got there. After too long a wait for it to reopen, Adams stuck her head in the Marine recruiters’ office, which was right next door.
“Four hours later, I said, ‘I’m joining the Marines,’” she said. “That was spring of 2009; by August of 2009, I left for boot camp at Parris Island.”
Parris Island and the infamous toughness of Marine boot camp lived up to every bit of its reputation, she said.
“Boot camp is just three months of the most miserable days,” Adams said. “All you want to do is get through it and get out of there.”
Adams sucked it up and got through, continuing without complaint even with a nasty hip injury, just to make sure she got out with her unit. She spent a month at Jacksonville, N.C., “where they treat you more like a human being,” then took off for Florida for training in her specialty.
“Originally, I wanted to be an MP (military police) because of my passion for criminal justice, but there were no openings,” she said. “I’m in signal intelligence. It’s top secret stuff that I’m not allowed to talk about. I’m an E4, that’s a corporal with the First Radio Battalion. There’s about 1,500 of us.”
Deployed to Camp Delaram in Helmand Province in Afghanistan for the past eight months, Adams provided back-up intelligence support for those in the field. Because of the sensitivity of her job, she wasn’t allowed out of camp or to mingle with the country people. Yet Afghanistan had an impact.
Poised and articulate, Adams stopped a minute to choose the right words to try to describe what life was like outside Camp Delaram’s walls.
“The buildings were cracked; there are no paved roads; the kids ran around barefoot,” Adams said. “But it’s not the physical things that impress you. It’s that the people there are always in fear of their lives. It makes you appreciate America, makes you love America.”
Her family and friends are impressed by the changes the Marine Corps have made to Adams. “We always knew she was smart; she was a high honor student,” her aunt, Robin Patria, said. “But I can see a difference. She’s so much more confident.”
That self-confidence comes with making it through boot camp, Adams said, with the excellent training she received and knowing the importance of the duty that must be done and done well, because other people’s lives depend upon it.
“You’re so responsible for what you do every day, you have to have confidence in yourself,” she said.
But according to 22-year-old Nadeau, Adams’ composure was always there, the Marines just helped it blossom.
And, one suspects, Adams’ nature is also the result of a loving family and loyal friend who support her every move, keeping in contact in every way they can, including Adams’ grandmother. At 77, Bouchard is no slouch when it comes to technology. She has a computer, a cellphone and a Kindle, and she’s used them all, plus pen to paper, to keep in touch with her granddaughter every day, no matter where she’s stationed.
“She did write me letters while I was in boot camp. Letters are more personal,” Adams said. “Everyone in boot camp loved getting letters.”
And the ties of friendship with Nadeau never loosened while Adams was gone. Nadeau helped out during some difficult times recently while Adams was deployed, including family crises, like the death of Adams’ beloved grandfather.
“Bre steps in for me with my family. She’s me, here, while I’m away,” said Adams, the words bringing Nadeau to tears.
Home for awhile to catch up with her 15-year-old brother Jeremy, “my pride and joy,” and the rest of her family and her friends, Adams is also contemplating what will happen in a couple of years when her five-year stint with the Marines is complete. She could return to college full time, for the GI Bill will pay for it, she said, or she could go with another intelligence-related government agency or private company, for her top-secret clearance makes that a strong possibility.
Civilian life could be in California or Pennsylvania, where her boyfriend’s from, Adams said, but her best friend shook her head.
“She won’t do that; she’s coming home,” Nadeau said. “Home to Seabrook.”