Categories: Schenectady County
Jeffrey Walton was specializing in finance in the Army National Guard when he got called to Iraq in October 2004. Since he was trained as a military policeman, Walton was among a group of soldiers taken from their regular units, combined in a new group and flown in to support troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Within 10 days of the call, Walton was on a plane, leaving his wife and two young daughters and his job at General Electric.
Though disabled when he returned home two years later, he started rebuilding his life.
Walton was honored Thursday at the Amsterdam American Legion Post 701, a group that’s taking on the role of helping soldiers cope with returning from a life wrought with explosions and death and trying to assimilate back into the life they left behind.
“It turns everything around quickly,” said Walton, 38, who was presented a $500 check through the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes.
“When you get the call, you go. Hopefully you make it back, which I did. A lot of people didn’t,” Walton said.
The nonprofit Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes was created as a conduit for individuals, organizations and corporations to help severely wounded veterans rebuild their lives, and the grant for Walton was one of 1,000 being distributed nationwide.
Walton, who was joined by his wife Sandra on Thursday, said the honor was unexpected. He said he was just doing his duty.
Amsterdam Alderman Dan Roth, himself an Iraq war veteran, presented Walton a proclamation from the city of Amsterdam.
Roth said places such as the American Legion Post help returning soldiers by providing guidance and a view of several generations of people who have been through war as well.
For Walton and his family, the healing continues. Aside from a leg injury, not all of his wounds are visible. He described himself as an outgoing person before he went to war. When he returned, he kept to himself for three months and initially had a hard time being around people.
Having less than two weeks notice that her husband was going to Iraq made life difficult, Sandra Walton said, as did the fact that it took several weeks for the military to get Walton’s pay to him and the family once he was in.
Sandra Walton described the difficulty of being awake while her husband, thousands of miles away, was in another time zone. Also difficult for her, she said, was knowing that her husband would wait in line for more than an hour to get on a phone and have 15 minutes to talk.
“Not having a father in the household was very difficult,” she said.
“Overall, he’s home. We’re very happy to have him back,” she said.
Vietnam War combat veteran James Yermas, past department vice commander of the American Legion, said things were different for returning veterans decades ago.
“We didn’t get any of this, but it makes me feel good to do this,” Yermas said.
More information about the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes can be found on the Internet at http://www.saluteheroes.org/.