“Whenever I was having a bad day, whether I was in Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan, I’d reach into my pocket and take out this piece of cement from one of the Twin Towers and I’d remind myself about how fortunate I am.” And with these words, Lt. Mitch Ellicott began his informational talk to Mrs. Kenny’s & Mr. Ryder’s morning Global Mosaic class. Husband to Hopatcong High School’s Math teacher, Linda Ellicott and father to Freshman Maggie, Mitch shared his thoughts, experiences and advice concerning his two tours overseas. His first deployment to Kuwait and Iraq was for a year. His most recent 6 month deployment to Afghanistan ended last Friday when he was warmly greeted by his four children and wife.
Mr. Ellicott explained to the students that like us, Afghan people want their independence. Americans are there trying to help the Afghans gain their freedom from the Taliban. The Taliban, he explained, is still a dangerous force there. Before his departure for Afghanistan, Mr. Ellicott studied the Afghan culture and language for over a month. This helped build a relationship with the Afghan people.
There were many challenges while serving in the Navy in Afghanistan: temperature of 134 degrees each day, contaminated water supply, IED devices, ground and mountain attacks, sand storms, abundance of bacteria in the food, (the soldiers were instructed to never eat any of the food ), health issues such as dehydration, heat stroke, cramps, exhaustion, not to mention the varied diseases easily contracted.
Mitch ended the 80 minute talk by adding that it took him 2 ½ years to get into a uniform and serve our country. His age and a leg injury set up a couple of roadblocks. But with the assistance of Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Mitch pursued the dream which came to life as a result of 9/11. Having lost his brother-in-law in the Twin Towers, he felt compelled to respond. Mitch enlisted. Viewing himself as a “Patriot”, Mitch told the class, “You are in charge of your own destiny. You own your life. You are steering your own ship. It took me
2 ½ years to act on my desire to serve this country, and fortunately I am here to talk about it.”