Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
Lori Secor has lately shared a bit of advice with her grown daughter: “Make sure you get lots of pictures of you and Dad together.”
Photos the Everett woman has seen recently show that her far-flung family is safe. They’re also proof of the unique stories they’ll have to tell. Richard and Jessica Secor are in the midst of a father-daughter experience like no other.
Exotic vacation? Leisurely getaway? Not these two.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Secor, 49, is on his second deployment to Iraq. Last month, his 27-year-old daughter also arrived in Iraq, where she’s serving as an Army surgical and trauma nurse.
“Imagine serving with your daughter in a war zone,” Richard Secor said last week by e-mail from southern Iraq, where he’s deployed with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. He’s based at Camp Liberty, where Saddam Hussein once had his Al-Faw Palace, and works in support of the National Ground Intelligence Center.
“I never imagined being here with Jessica. It’s almost surreal,” he said.
Surreal could also describe the change in scenery from Capt. Jessica Secor’s last post — Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“Jessica, who received her orders on just three weeks’ notice, departed paradise and is now stationed at the 28th Combat Support Hospital,” her father’s e-mail said.
A 2001 Everett High School graduate, Jessica Secor attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., on an ROTC scholarship, and earned her nursing degree at the Catholic university.
“She’s on the trail of making this her career,” Lori Secor said. Jessica Secor, expected to be in Iraq six months, recently told her mother that she helped with an operation on an Iraqi colonel.
“He had his leg amputated. It’s not just U.S. soldiers,” Lori Secor said. In Hawaii, Jessica Secor specialized in orthopedic and spine surgery.
Lori Secor, who works at the Smokey Point dental office of Dr. Kevin Harrison, has provided home-front support for years, as her husband served in the Navy, the Navy Reserves and now in the Army. The Secors have another daughter, Brittany, a year younger than Jessica.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Richard Secor was recalled to active duty. He worked several years at the Pentagon.
“I really enjoyed my time at the Pentagon, but something was missing,” he said by e-mail. “I asked the Navy to send me to Iraq. I really wanted to be forward deployed with the others.”
In 2006, when he wasn’t needed in Iraq by the Navy, Secor switched military branches and joined the Army. After training at Fort Drum, N.Y., he was assigned to Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
“The reality is, any soldier from any unit is deployable nowadays,” he said. Secor credits his wife for her understanding and support.
“None of this could be possible without the cornerstone of this family, Lori,” Rich Secor said. “She understands me and knows why I continue to serve. Being deployed seems easy compared to what she and other military spouses have to endure.”
Jessica Secor said by e-mail that her mother cares for her pets and sends so many packages to Iraq that “the mail clerk knows our names by heart.”
As luck has it, Jessica is stationed at Camp Sather, about six miles from her father’s base. It’s the closest they have lived to each other in eight years. As duty schedules allow, they get together several times a week.
“The other day my dad and I met in the dining facility for dinner,” Jessica Secor said by e-mail. “At another table sat many of my co-workers. As my dad put down his tray, I heard them say, ‘So you must be Dad.’ He answered, ‘Yes, I’m Dad.’ ”
“I’m used to being deployed,” Richard Secor said. “In the Army, it’s all about taking care of the soldiers to your left and right. I just never thought one of those soldiers would be my daughter.”
No one could have planned it, but Lori Secor is thrilled her husband and daughter are together.
“I have a lot to be thankful for — that one’s not in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.