Texico soldier returning to Iraq on Memorial Day

Tobis Askew is attacked by his daughter Taylor Askew and his nephews Matthew and Marquis Askew-Betts as they play in the pool during a family barbecue Saturday afternoon. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

On a day when America recognizes its fallen soldiers, Texico’s Tobie Askew will be returning to Iraq on Monday and back in harm’s way.

In the area for a two-week furlough, Askew will leave behind his wife — also his high-school sweetheart — a 6-year-old daughter and his parents. The hugs at the airport will have to last six months until Askew finishes his tour in the war-torn country.

An Army mechanic stationed at Ballad Air Base, Askew, 25, is casual about what he does for a living and where he does it. He talks of taking more college classes when he returns so he can move up in rank. He hopes to be a warrant officer by next year.

He enjoys Army life, he said, and serving in Iraq has not affected his hopes to retire from the military.

“I enjoy traveling. It just depends on your lifestyle — if you’re adventurous and like to travel and stuff, the military’s the place to go.”

Jessica Askew, his wife of five years, said she supports his career. However, she misses him terribly when he’s away.

She and their daughter Taylor gave up the tropical paradise of Hawaii, where they are stationed with him, to be closer to home during his absence. They put their personal belongings in storage and have been staying with his parents in Texico since he left in December.

Upbeat and cheerful, she tries to make the time pass by helping her in-laws with the office work for their businesses.

She describes her daughter a daddy’s girl who has adjusted well and enjoys playing with her cousins.

She avoids the news, trying not to focus on the negative.

One of her worst days came while on the phone with her husband. The base came under attack and she heard a loud “boom,” she said. Her husband told her he had to go. Stunned, she clung to the phone, realizing her husband, in his haste, had set the phone down without hanging up.

She said she stayed on the line, listening to the chaos and yelling of the troops in his unit.

“That was rough on me,” she said, “I think I cried all day.”

They have spent two of the four years since he enlisted apart, but she believes Army life was the right choice for them. Both graduates of Texico High School, she said the decision to join the military seemed natural.

“Around here what else can you do, being a young male in New Mexico. It’s either (join the military) or go to college or get paid minimum wage.”

The deployments and remote tours have strengthened their love, she believes.

“We have to sit on the phone and talk and get to know each other better. It’s made our relationship stronger.”

Her feelings are mixed on the war.

“I think it’s time to bring them home,” she said. “(But) I don’t think it’s wasted, they have missions they have to do. They’re doing stuff to help the country (of Iraq).”

When the deployment is over, they will return to Hawaii. “Our plan is just to get back to our normal life, if you can call it normal,” Jessica Askew said, chuckling.