For Spc. Jason Tully, missing his five children growing up is tougher than the danger he's faced in Afghanistan as a member of the Army National Guard.
"The hard part for me was when I did call and talk to them" and hearing how much they'd grown up during his deployment, said Tully. "You miss so much, you know."
He and his wife, Jaklyn, have five children, ages 11, 8, 5, 4 and 2. He returned home to his family on Sunday, March 20.
"I don't think the little ones quite understood where he was," Jaklyn said.
He originally enlisted in 1998 and reenlisted in March 2009.
"Everybody in my family is military, or has been. It's more of a religion than anything else," he said. "I knew I wanted to be in the military from the first time I saw GI Joe."
Originally a tank mechanic, Tully was retrained as a military policeman and in May 2010, was deployed to the Camp Clark Forward Operating Base, "which is just a hiccup with a fence."
"'Wow, I could hit every fence with a rock from where I'm standing,'" he remembers thinking upon his arrival. "It was very real."
Tully was part of a Police Combined Action Team, helping to retrain and professionalize the local police force.
"We were working to help them get less military-minded and more community-minded," he said. "The people actually adored us as MPs. ... They knew we had their back."
Although there are 200 people in the 330th Military Police Company, only about 34 of them were stationed at Camp Clark, living at the front line alongside local police who are the targets of Taliban attacks.
"It was scary," Tully said. "We'd get intel saying that they've got 18 tons of explosive waiting for us. Why wear body armor at that point?"
He and several other members of his unit were awarded the Purple Heart after an attack on a local police station while they were there.
At the time of the attack, Tully was sitting in one of the unit's vehicles, listening to reports from other members of the unit still out in the field.
The warning came over the radio: "VBIED, VBIED, VBIED," or Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device -- a car bomb.
"I looked up, saw [the bomber] get out of the car running," Tully said. "The car went up, [I] got bounced around inside my vehicle. I got out, got on the roof and provided cover for the security. We were taking small arms fire."
That bouncing Tully had endured inside his vehicle left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury, according to military doctors, but he says he's fine now.
Jaklyn has taken his injury in stride -- once she knew he had survived the attack, she was fine, she said.
"I raised my right hand and volunteered," Tully said. "She jumped in as an Army wife as well."
Jaklyn was previously enlisted in the Army National Guard herself.
Although there are no immediate plans for Tully to return to Afghanistan, he has four more years left on his contract with the National Guard and expects he'll be heading back at some point.
"I'm betting like 12 months," he said.
In the interim, Tully plans to return to classes at Victor Valley College, with an eye to a possible criminal justice degree.
His long deployment has meant the family has adjusted to his absence in many ways.
"I'm used to driving now," Jaklyn said.
"When I was here before, there were still all the same balls in the air" at home, Tully said. "I can't come back and snatch them all back now."
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.