STERLING – Family and friends planned a send-off party Friday for Navy Seabee Juan Temiquel, as the Sterling native prepared for his sixth deployment. But when duty calls, things rarely go according to plan.
Temiquel, 48, thought he was heading to Norfolk, Va., in mid-January to prepare for his next stint in Afghanistan. The military needed him sooner, and he had to leave Friday – the day of his party at Sterling Dairy Mart Plus. So everyone just rolled with the fact that the guest of honor wouldn’t be there, knowing they could still show their appreciation.
Mary Temiquel was disappointed her son couldn’t be there, but after 23 years of his son’s service, she understands how these things work. But after a previous deployment to Afghanistan, and tours of duty in Iraq, Honduras and Haiti, it doesn’t get any easier to say goodbye.
“Every time he goes, I pray the rosary every day,” Mary said, as her eyes filled with tears. “I ask the Lord to take care of him. Every time he leaves, I have Father bless him at church before he goes.”
Juan’s first deployment with the Navy was in Desert Storm. He then came home and joined the Naval Reserves, based in Chicago. Mary and Juan’s two sisters went to Norfolk, Va., to meet him in October when he returned from his last tour of duty in Afghanistan. Mary’s relief was to be short-lived.
“When he said he was going back to Afghanistan, the first thing I said was ‘did you volunteer?’” Mary said. “He kind of avoided the question and said the whole squad was going.”
Dodging questions is something Juan does to protect his mother, Mary says.
“He has never spoken to me about what he does over there,” she said. “I know he tells his friends about it, but not me. He doesn’t want me to worry.”
As a Seabee, Juan has done everything from build schools in Honduras and Haiti to transport supplies and fight. Mary said that one of the tougher things he has had to do is help build the immigration fence in Arizona.
But when she asked him questions about what it was like in Haiti after the devasting earthquake, he just said “Mom, you don’t want to know.”
State Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, made the trip from the Quad Cities to show his appreciation for Juan’s service.
“I wanted to make sure we give vets the proper due they deserve,” the 71st District legislator said. “Especially someone who’s been deployed six times. Individuals like him make freedom possible for us all.”
Although Mary is incredibly proud of her son, she hopes this is the last time she has to go through a deployment.
“I told him that he has 21/2 years left and he had better not enlist again,” Mary said. “The worrying is just an awful feeling you never get used to.”