Faces From the Front for July 19, 2010 - Spc. John Laursen
Current Unit: 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment, 10th Mountain Division
Current Position: Motor Transport Operator
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Iraq
Hometown: Brick, N.J.
Years of Service: 1
The events that occurred on September 11, 2001 changed the lives of millions of Americans forever and Spc. John Laursen was no exception. Laursen’s father and uncle, both members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), were first responders to the World Trade Center site on that fateful day. The two survived, but as the smoke cleared the drastic changes that followed the attack began to sink in.
“My father was a Port Authority Police Officer and went from being at every hockey game I played, to working 12 hour days, seven days a week, just like that. And being young at the time, I blamed everything and everybody for it, I didn’t know how to fully handle what happened or how to help,” Laursen explained.
As the years passed, Laursen came to realize that the best way he could both help prevent future attacks and honor the PAPD for their actions on September 11th was to serve in the U.S. Army.
“Joining the Army, in my eyes, was the best way I could possibly honor what the Port Authority Police Department did that day,” said Laursen. “It would almost be a spit in the face to all of those officers, my dad’s partners, who lost their lives, to not join the military.”
Now in Iraq, Laursen is serving as a motor transport operator. He is responsible for driving convoys and delivering supplies, such as food, water, medical materials and mail to his fellow Soldiers throughout the country. Serving in one of the more dangerous jobs in Iraq, drivers such as Laursen face everything from roadside bombs to insurgent attacks while convoying across the desert and maneuvering along some of the most treacherous streets in the world. Laursen takes the risks in stride, understanding the importance of his work in helping his fellow Soldiers accomplish their missions and the impact his deliveries make on the moral of his comrades.
“It’s a real great feeling rolling in when you’re hauling something like mail. I know mail call is like Christmas every time it comes around, it’s that one thing everyone is waiting for, news from home or a care package that just says people back home are still supporting you. To have the opportunity to bring that kind of moral boost is a real honor,” Laursen said.
Recently Laursen was given the opportunity to help not just his fellow Soldiers, but Iraqi nationals as well. He participated in a month-long humanitarian mission with the Iraqi Army aimed at distributing supplies to Iraqis living in rural areas of the country. By the end of the month Laursen and his Iraqi counterparts were able to provide aid to approximately 2,000 families.
“I have to say, this was an experience that will last a lifetime. I went from just driving from point A to point B, to being out there handing out toys and food, and interacting directly with the local nationals,” Laursen said. “The smiles and looks on the locals’ faces will be something I will never forget. I had the chance to give a child who could not walk a wheelchair. For the first time in that child’s life he will have the ability to go get a snack or glass of water on his own. I can leave this country knowing that I honestly changed at least one person’s life.”
The Soldier, who is slated to return home in early August, will end his deployment knowing that his time in Iraq helped him mature and develop skills that will benefit his Army career in the future.
“Being towards the end of this deployment, I can really say that I have grown as a person from being over here, mentally and physically, Laursen said.”This deployment has given me a good chance to learn and start adapting a style of leadership that works for both me and the Soldiers that I may very well be leading one day. From day one, every single day has offered me some type of advice and some way I can improve myself as not only a Soldier but also as a person.”
That said, the Soldier looks forward to spending time with friends and family in his native Brick, N.J.
“I will go back and relax on the beaches of the beautiful Jersey Shore, maybe catch a concert or two at Asbury Lanes, and being from New Jersey, coming home wouldn’t be complete without getting a real pizza,” Laursen said. “I just want to take some time to unwind and see some of the old faces back on the streets that made me who I am today.”
Laursen, who has been in the Army for a year, plans to make a career of his military service.
“As of right now, I plan on staying in for as long as they let me. For the first time in my life I have a job that I wake up and enjoy doing and that I have fun doing.”