BANGOR, Maine — Gouldsboro resident Robin Aston said Wednesday that she has been pretty much numb for the past year while her son Army Reserve Spc. David T. Aston II of Bangor has been serving in Iraq with the 94th Military Police Company.
“I was pretty much in neutral the whole time he was gone,” she said Wednesday, the day after the 94th returned to Maine.
The U.S. Army Reserve unit is based in Londonderry, N.H., and made up of soldiers from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Maine detachment trains in Saco. The 94th, which included 42 Mainers, left the state last year to serve in Iraq doing security missions and training Iraqi police to take over.
The work was tough and dangerous.
“You always had to keep an eye open,” David Aston said. “There was a lot of explosions and a lot of gunfire.”
The 94th protected Outpost Muthana, a small post located at the old Baghdad municipal airport, which is now a joint base with Americans and the Iraqi Army, he said.
Back in 2003, the unit was one of the first to arrive in Baghdad after the invasion that took down Saddam Hussein, and spent a record 22 months in harm’s way. All of the unit’s soldiers returned home safe after the 2003 deployment, and repeated the trend with the one that ended last week.
Living in constant danger took its toll, Aston said of himself and his brothers-in-arms.
“It’s hard to adapt. You get in that mind-set and you’re in it for so long,” he said of the invisible protective shield soldiers in combat carry. “It’s hard to transition back and escape that mind-set in a matter of five days.”
He added that he has a great support system in his mom, his girlfriend, Chloe Brown, and others who have spent the past year supporting him from home.
The 2009 Bangor High School graduate was a member of the school’s Junior ROTC program, which — along with help from his grandfather, former Army Col. David Thomas Aston — gave him a direction in life. Col. Aston was a veteran of three wars.
ROTC taught him about “overcoming your mental barrier and being all you can be,” the younger Aston said. His grandfather “was the main reason I joined. He was a career military.”
Robin Aston said she adopted “Davie” when he was 8 days old, and when he entered the airplane hangar with the rest of his unit Tuesday, “it was like tunnel vision. All I could picture was his smile.
“I am so impressed,” she added later. “I admire him so much for what he has done.”
Specialist Aston already is enrolled at the University of Maine and starts classes in the fall. He said he’s not sure yet what he will study, but already is thinking about becoming an Army officer. The Bangor reservist was one of the youngest members of the 94th and celebrated his 20th birthday in Iraq.
“It’s kind of weird to think I’m a combat vet before I can legally drink,” he said.
The reality that he was home and safe didn’t hit him when he arrived back on U.S. soil last week, David Aston said.
It hit him when “I was back with my loved ones.”