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Made it home for Christmas

Sgt. Nicholas Blazak, with his mother Jean Blazak, is home on leave. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
December 22, 2010 - Jean Blazak of Independence Township got a Christmas wish, her son Nicholas Blazak, home on a 10-day leave.

"I haven't seen him in a year – it's nice to have him home for Christmas," Jean said.

"I'm going to try to smash everything into 10 days – see all my friends, sleep in my own bed, eat homecooked meals, eat at an American McDonalds," Nicholas said.

A sergeant in the U.S. Army, he is stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany with the Ninth Engineering Battalion, 172nd Infantry Brigade. The 2007 Clarkston High School graduate joined the army in April 2008, and worked as a cook at the Clarkston Union for three years before that.

"I joined because I wanted to do something, make a name for myself," he said. "It's great for those who don't know what they want to do after high school, which happened to me. A lot of family members were in the service."

"My side of the family is all military," said Jean, who volunteers with Michigan Military Moms, sending care packages, sewing quilts, and hosting events. "He was always into army stuff. It didn't surprise me when he enlisted."

Nicholas, 22, completed basic and advanced training as a combat engineer in August 2008, and deployed to Iraq that December.

Stationed at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, about an hour south of Baghdad, duties included truck convoys and route clearance.

"It was pretty easy – we found one or two improvized explosive devices, not a lot," he said. "We called EOD to deal with it."

For construction missions, he drove an M9 Armored Combat Earthmover, a type of bulldozer.

His Iraqi tour of duty ended on Nov. 15, 2009. Now stationed in Germany, his unit is training for deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.

Promoted to sergeant, E-5, after two-and-a-half years of service, he works as company training NCO. Soon he will have to decide whether to re-enlist.

"My choice is to stay here or deploy," he said.

Jean will be proud of him either way.

"I'll support whatever his choice will be – he's served his country," she said. "He's a grown man, a soldier now. He can make his own decision."

After his service, his plans include college and a career with computer programming, graphic design, or with Homeland Security.

Nicholas moved to Independence Township with his parents, Jean and the late Thomas Blazak, about 16 years ago.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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