SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Sergeant Lisa Thompson Deploying To Afghanistan
By Marie L. Monyak


April 13, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Lisa Thompson, Lisa Thompson, Hmmmm. Like most people in Ketchikan, you hear a name, you recognize it, but for the life of you, you can't put a face with the name or remember where you heard it. Now you remember, you've seen her name countless times as a copyrighted photographer right here in SitNews.

jpg Sergeant Lisa Thompson

Sergeant Lisa Thompson
Photograph by Carl Thompson © 2006

A wife of almost 24 years, stepmother, grandmother, daughter, photographer, full-time worker, diver, business owner, Thompson holds one more title and it's that of Citizen Soldier. That's right, Thompson, 46 years old and not afraid to admit it, is a member of the Alaska Army National Guard.

Whether they are employed or not, many women in Ketchikan are involved in spring cleaning, planting their summer gardens, making ready for Easter or planning a vacation, Thompson's plans are quite different.

It began with an alert order in January that read, in so many words; pack your bags, your country needs you and you're going far away from home for a year or more. Two months later in March, Thompson receives notice that her destination will be Afghanistan. On this day, Tuesday, April 11th, Thompson received an email instructing her that her orders call for her to spend a minimum of 545 days (about 18 months) on active duty service with the possibility of extending that time as needed.

On Monday, April 17th, Sergeant Lisa Thompson will fly to Anchorage where she will receive additional training before being sent to Afghanistan. Currently, Thompson's military occupation is that of a mechanic qualified to work on any vehicle rated 5 tons or less. Her upcoming training will qualify her as a driver with the ability to operate any variety of military vehicles

Patriotism spikes and wanes through the years. Immediately after 9-11, Americans showed their deep appreciation for all uniformed citizens, be they civilian or military. The Iran-Iraq war brought about a new wave of patriotism but the daily news footage makes the public numb as wars drag on. Sometimes we forget. We forget the sacrifices made by our uniformed men and women. We forget to say thank you.

Try to imagine life in Thompson's shoes. As she read her military orders that arrived this week by certified mail, the shock set in. She is being sent to Afghanistan and should expect to be away from home and family for almost two years or more. Breaking the news to loved ones and friends is how she begins this journey. Knowing she will be separated from her spouse for that long can't be easy.

Try to imagine the upheaval in Thompson's life. Working full-time for Homeland Security as a Transportation Security Officer at Ketchikan's airport, Thompson must take a military leave. By law, her job will be waiting for her upon her return but what of her own small businesses?

Husband Carl and Lisa together own Carl Thompson's Alaska Photographs. For a year and a half, she will not be an active partner in this new enterprise that is just now finding its niche in Ketchikan. Then there's C & L Diving that Thompson is building into a thriving small business executing underwater surveys and performing recoveries. She was just in the process of acquiring underwater photography equipment and expanding her business. Thompson's military orders have stalled any hopes of continuing her business until her return.

jpg Lisa Thompson

Sergeant Lisa Thompson
Photograph by Robin Harford ©

Try to imagine what the word "home" means to you. Thompson's personal life has come to a complete stop with all the responsibilities of home and hearth transferred to her husband Carl. The Thompson's live off South Tongass in a beautiful home they've built which they're in the process of completing. Then there's the 32 foot M/V Ruby Lee which Thompson uses regularly for diving. She will not be able to enjoy the homey comfort of either place or tend to their upkeep.

Thompson knows she is leaving everything in her Carl's capable hands; the bill paying, cleaning, shopping, completing their home construction, maintaining their boat, carrying on with their business. All decision making is left up to the spouse Thompson leaves behind. The family structure changes.

Try to imagine packing your life in a few Army duffle bags, checking everything off the list of necessities provided by the Army National Guard. What personal items will she take, will she have room for? What about pictures of loved ones, email addresses of friends, a DVD player to pass away the long hours away from home in a foreign land, her camera equipment so she can continue her hobby of photography? Does she dare take her professional cameras or will the dusty arid climate in Afghanistan damage them? Thompson decides on buying an amateur's camera knowing if damage occurs, it will be less of a loss than her expensive professional equipment.

Thompson's military history goes back more than two decades to 1981 when she joined the Air Force and was sent to Turkey during the Iran-Iraq War. She was stationed at Incirlik Air Base, an important NATO facility in the city of Adana and found herself only 300 miles from the bloody fighting.

Although Carl and Lisa are both from Jacksonville, Florida, they didn't meet and marry until 1982 while they were stationed in Turkey. When their tour of duty overseas ended, the Air Force transferred the pair to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage where Thompson stayed until her active duty tour ended in 1986 after serving 5 years and 4 months.

Thompson went from active duty Air Force directly into the Alaska Air National Guard but once she had moved to Ketchikan she found that flying to Anchorage every month for training was an enormous expense she could hardly afford, so for the sake of logistics, she transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1989.

Called to active duty again in 1997, Thompson received orders from the U. S. Coast Guard that there was a shortage of manpower in her particular field, which at the time was Bridge Navigation. As a result, Thompson was sent to serve aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Storis, stationed out of Kodiak. When she was released in 1999 and returned to Ketchikan, Thompson transferred to the Alaska Army National Guard who provided better retirement benefits than she would have received from the Coast Guard.

In 1999, at the age of 40, one would think Thompson would just have to serve out her time until retirement but it didn't quite work that way. Shortly after 9-11-01, Thompson, like thousands of fellow Guardsmen and Reservists, was called out once again to provide security at airports and armories before the advent of the Homeland Security Department which provides the security we experience today.

After five months, Thompson returned home to proceed with her life, enjoy her family, build her home and businesses and do the everyday things we all take for granted.

And now this, new orders to return to active duty once again.

Try to imagine

Like any well trained soldier, Sergeant Thompson of the 297th Support Battalion H.H.C. of the Alaska Army National Guard will obey her orders and report for duty next week.

When asked how she felt, what she was thinking, or if she was afraid, without a moment's hesitation Thompson replied, "I have no fear because of my spiritual standing with the Lord."

Just try to imagine.


On the Web:

Our Troops

Lisa's Alaska Photos

Carl's Alaska Photos


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.
For freelance writing services and costs contact Marie at mlmx1[at]

Send your story ideas to editor@sitnews us

Publish A Letter on SitNews         Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska