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Soldier home for holiday

Auburn man says he has no regrets about chosen path
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn soldier made it home just in time for his wedding and the Fourth of July. Specialist Jeff Baldwin, 21, has lived in Auburn since he was 7 years old and said his family inspired him to join the United States Army. “I came from a really big military family,” Baldwin said. “My dad’s been in 37 years now. My mother was in. She was stationed in Germany during the ‘80s. I chose the Army because I was younger; it was a job that needed to be done. They wanted more truck drivers, but I opted for infantry.” Baldwin was stationed in Karbala, Iraq for nine months before coming home June 24. He and his wife, Clarissa, got married June 27, the anniversary of the day they met four years ago. Clarissa Baldwin said she is happy to have her husband home. “It’s nice waking up to see him every morning, especially after it’s been nine months,” Clarissa Baldwin said. On his way home, one of his first sights of the United States was a very patriotic one, Jeff Baldwin said. “We flew over Boston and you could see pretty much the whole city was red, white and blue because of all the flags that were flying,” he said. “It was pretty cool.” Baldwin, who helped provide security during his time in Iraq, said the military is playing a much different role in the country than it was several years ago. “The conflict is really over,” he said. “Right now we are just over there for advising and assisting.” Although the situation is fairly calm, tours of duty are always an adjustment, Jeff Baldwin said. “The first month you are pretty stressed out,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen. You definitely gain a lot of confidence. You always hear, ‘Don’t get complacent, because complacency is what gets people killed.’ The platoon I’m in is probably one of the best platoons over there right now in my opinion. Absolutely, we trust each other. Absolutely, we have to trust each other with our lives.” The weather is also an adjustment. The temperature in the shade was 127 degrees and Baldwin’s 50-pound gear added another 20 degrees, he said. “The heat doesn’t really bother you after awhile,” he said. Baldwin spent Fourth of July with his new wife and her family, he said. “That was the day we drove back from our honeymoon,” Jeff Baldwin said. “We got to watch the parade from a restaurant where Clarissa and I and her family were eating.” The couple watched the Gold Country Fairgrounds fireworks from a street near their homes. Baldwin said the holiday is all about honoring those who have served before him. “I was brought up in a very patriotic family, but absolutely it’s a lot more pride in my country,” he said. “There are, especially in this area, a lot of veterans. You get to be more in-tune with them, their feelings.” Clarissa Baldwin said the Fourth of July has a much deeper meaning to her now that she is so close to someone serving in the military. Clarissa Baldwin said she tries not to think about her husband being gone when he is deployed, but she loves it when he is home. “When he’s back, everything is fine,” she said. “It’s kind of surreal. It’s an awesome feeling when he comes back. It’s like everything is right. I’m definitely really proud of him. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of anybody.” Sheri Conley, Clarissa Baldwin’s mother, said she does worry about her son-in-law when he is deployed. “It’s risky,” Sheri Conley said. “You try not to think about where they are and exactly what is going on.” David Conley, Clarissa Baldwin’s father, said he thinks the Army has had a positive impact on his son-in-law’s life. “I think that Jeff has really become quite a responsible man and I’m really proud to have him as my son,” David Conley said. “I’m really glad Clarissa found someone to keep her happy. When he was enlisted I felt like he had direction and someone to help him get focused.” After Baldwin finishes his time in Iraq in the fall, he is scheduled to be stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Clarissa Baldwin plans to attend college and study to be a linguist. Baldwin said he doesn’t have any regrets about the life he’s lived so far. “I definitely would take the same path if I had to go through it all again,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com