M-W grad ships off for duty as combat medic in Iraq

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:58

    MONROE-The calendar at the Daley's Monroe home reminds you that the month is March and the year is 2005. The last time the seven members of the family were together was December. The next time that may happen the calendar may read March 2006. Or later. That's because one of the Daley's five children - Private First Class Nicholas Daley - has just begun his first month of a possible 12-14 month stay in the Middle East. The 19-year-old 2003 Monroe-Woodbury High School graduate is a combat evacuation medic with the 70th Engineers Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. His Battalion is based in Al-Taji, which is about 30 to 40 miles north of Baghdad. Daley may be proud to be fighting for his country, but at his Monroe home, a worried family hopes to not hear the worst about their son. "We're edgy all the time, but we pray," his father, Gerry, said in an interview this week. "The best we could do is pray." Daley's step-mother, Melissa, shared similar thoughts. "When he first came home from serving down south (training at a North Carolina military base) for Christmas, we were so happy just to touch him and see him in front of us," she said. "But when he left, we cried. "Now, some days we're choked up and we cry, and other days it'll be alright," she said. "We try to talk about it in the open and not hide our feelings," she continued, referring to her family which aslo includes a 21-year-old college student, a 15-year-old Monroe-Woodbury High School student, a 14-year-old junior high school student and a 4-year-old pre-K student . Christmas was the last time Nicholas was home. After leaving his hometown of Monroe, he went back down to Ft. Sam Houston in North Carolina to continue his training to become a medic with the United States Army. It was just a few weeks ago when his country called for his help, assigning him to be "the doc," as his father calls the job, with the 70th Battalion. "Nick is a combat medic assigned to engineering," Gerry Daley said. "He travels with the guys who are working mechanics on the battlefield. Whatever their medical problem is, they look up to ‘their doc' for help." It was just last week that Gerry Daley was commuting on the bus from work when he saw a story in the New York Post about a soldier of the 70th Battalion in Iraq being killed in the line of duty. The story registered with the family as it would with any with loved ones in combat. Not knowing how he was was the hardest part. "He was able to get an e-mail out a few days later, after the restrictions were lifted. He said that he was doing okay and that he was safe," Gerry Daley said. Relief came for that short time but the anxiety would be renewed everyday since then and everyday until their teenage son is home. Everyday they watch the news or read the daily papers. When a soldier dies or is injured, they worry. When they find out it is not their son, they are provided with some temporary relief. But somewhere out there, that injured or slain soldier they have just read of has a family, a family who no longer has the opportunity to breathe that sigh of relief. "It is difficult to answer whether I am against the war or not," said Melissa Daley. "We feel all of it, sometimes we support it, and sometimes we don't. There are lives at risk but at the same time people are being protected," she continued. Her husband shared a similar thought. "It is good that we stopped the Iraqi people form being hurt," he said, "and that they were, but at the same time, with your son in harms way, the fact that the original reasons for going there are not clear makes me have different opinions." But the two said their son is very proud to fight for his country and described how he tells them only about all the good transformations in Iraq. "He has pride; he always talks of the positive things going on. Like the rebuilding and how things are being restored there (Iraq)," Gerry Daley said. "All the things that are not being shown in the news." The Daley's have sent out several care packages, which Gerry Daley says consists of "small comforts, like wipes, snacks, and CD's - basic stuff." The Daley's, along with Nicholas' birth mother Charlene Daley of Highland Mills, have plans in the near future to ask the community for help in collecting items for care packages to send to their son's Battalion. But Gerry Daley said that people should already be helping our men and women in uniform. "The community should be helping all the guys over there, there are a lot of programs, like one where you can adopt a soldier, one you might not even know."