MINSTER — During his time serving in Iraq, SPC Patrick Minnich received calendars from his wife full with acts of kindness she had encountered from the community.
“Everyday, my wife would keep notes of kind things that people had done for us or for our children, and she would send over calendars,” Minnich said. “Rarely there would be a day where someone didn’t do something for us — whether it be someone offering to take the kids for an hour so she could go grocery shopping, someone bringing over a meal or someone sending a card or note saying we’re there for you and we support you.”
Minnich was stationed at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, a soldier of the 718th transportation battalion from Columbus, and was in charge of withdrawing troops and supplies from Iraq. A teacher at Marion Local High School, Minnich said he always thought about serving his country, and after Sept. 11, he felt it was a responsibility.
“After Sept. 11, I felt it was a responsibility for us to defend freedom and defend those that cannot defend themselves,” he said. “Saddam Hussein killed 20,000 of his own countrymen because they disagreed with his ideologies and his politics. To have people like that in this world going unchecked — things need to be done about it. So, of course, we need to defend our own borders, but at the same time, we need to defend humanity around the world.”
He arrived in Kuwait Dec. 6, 2010, just 15 days after his daughter, the youngest of four children, was born.
“I got to see her for five days before I went overseas,” Minnich said. “It was tough.”
Leaving his children, now ages 7, 5, 2 and 1, was difficult for him and for his children, Minnich said.
“Can you imagine telling your 6-year-old child at the time that you’re now the man of the house, and you need to help your mother out as much as possible,” Minnich said.
“For my 4-year-old, at the time, it was very hard for him. He really didn’t understand. My two other ones were so little that they didn’t realize that I was gone.”
He said his wife, also a teacher at Marion Local, took on an additional role in the family during his absence.
“In my family, the father is the disciplinarian, and so that’s a year that my wife had to step up and take over,” Minnich said. “She had to fill both of those roles of the parents, and it was hard. It was hard on everybody. The spouse and the children, they serve right along with the soldier. I couldn’t do what my wife did. She took care of four kids with a newborn all by herself for a year.”
Minnich said he was able to keep in regular contact with his family through e-mails, phone calls and Skype.
“We were able to Skype on a weekly basis,” he said. “We couldn’t do it every night because of the time difference. They could see me and I could see them, and that helped out a lot ... For the kids, Skype really helped out, so I could have face-to-face interaction with them and for them to share their experiences. Even when they were unwrapping presents on Christmas and on birthdays, it was nice to experience that with them.”
To recognize the sacrifices his children made, Minnich recently wrote a letter from Santa to the children of servicemen and women.
“It was because of them (my children) that I served, and it was because of them that I was able to fulfill my mission,” Minnich said. “I wanted them to feel appreciated, not just by me ... I wanted them to know that their country also appreciates their sacrifice, and it was important for me that a childhood icon, such as Santa, to take a moment to express his gratitude.”
He noted that it was important to him that the letter be extended to all children of servicemen and women, not just his own.
“I wanted it to be extended to all the children, not just mine,” he said. “This war has been going on for 10 plus years, and we’re still fighting in Afghanistan. The children feel the sacrifice as much as the soldiers do.”
Minnich also recognized the support he received from the community.
“I appreciated the support that I received from home,” he said. “My wife was a parent with four children, one of them a newborn, and our community stepped up so much to help them out — through baby-sitting and taking care of Ashley. My wife had emergency surgery while I was overseas, and during that time, the community stepped up and cooked dinners and took care of the kids.”
Minnich returned home on Oct. 24 and is now working with the National Guard unit in St. Marys. Minnich said the recent announcement of the end of the war in Iraq was a blessing.
“To me it was very meaningful,” he said. “I looked at it as if I were participating in history.”
He noted that a lot has been done for the people in Iraq.
“We have done our best to stabilize that country,” he said. “We have taken a ruthless dictator out of power. We have established freedoms. So many times, the national news fails to recognize the fact that we have provided freedoms to women to go to school, to drive, to have basic human rights. Over there, women were treated as slaves or worse. Now, through their new government, they are able to have the same rights as men.”
Minnich said he hopes Iraq will be able to continue to move forward.
“I pray for the stability of their country, that they’ll be able to move forward and utilize democracy as best they can and, hopefully, prevent any other conflict such as the one we just experienced from ever happening again,” he said.
More than anything, Minnich said he is grateful for the support he received from his family, friends and the community.
“I was serving for my country, and at the same time, my country was serving the needs of my family,” he said. “Without their support, I could not have done what I have done. I am very grateful and very proud to have served for such a wonderful nation.”