Sergeant Lisa Thompson Deploying
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Lisa's Alaska Photos
Carl's Alaska Photos
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]hotmail.com
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