GRAND PRAIRIE -- Joseph Racey served more than eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army and enjoyed serving his country so much he followed up by signing a six-year commitment with the U.S. Army Reserve.
"I live in the greatest country in the world," beamed the proud sergeant. "I couldn't think of anything else to do to bring honor to my country than to serve it, in any way possible."
But his love of country is now clashing with his love of family as he's getting set to deploy for a year in Kuwait to serve as a communications systems maintainer to help his engineering unit build roadways. His wife, Megan, will have to care for their two young daughters while battling cerebral palsy and she's due to give birth to their third child in August.
"Yeah, we sign up," Racey said while choking up, "[but] it's hard. It's going to be real, real hard."
To cheer up his family, his work family at Park Place Lexus, where he serves as an auto technician, threw him a surprise sendoff party on Tuesday and presented several gifts, including Build-A-Bears dressed in Army fatigues for the girls.
"I'm overwhelmed, is a good word to say," said Racey.
He says he's been advised by other soldiers who have left families behind during a deployment to stay in touch as much as possible so he doesn't become a stranger to his children. While technology makes that easy, it's still hard to be apart for so long.
"I'm missing the birth of my third child, I'm missing my oldest daughter's third birthday, and my middle daughter's first birthday, and all the milestones in between; walking and talking."
Megan put the length of time in perspective, saying through tears, "The baby will be nine months old when he gets home."
But as the dozens of well-wishes written on a wall noted, the sacrifice the family is making for our country is much appreciated. We wish Joseph and his family a safe deployment!