Don't forget those still in Iraq, local soldier urges

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation.

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation. Courtesy U.S. Army

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation.

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation. Courtesy U.S. Army

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation.

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows recently spoke to the Daily Herald from his post in Iraq, urging Americans back home to remember those still serving in the Middle Eastern nation. Courtesy U.S. Army

 
 
Updated 2/20/2011 5:01 PM

Don't forget the American soldiers still in Iraq or those who were injured there. That's the request of Staff Sgt. Jonathan Denton of Rolling Meadows, who is serving with the U.S. Army north of Baghdad.

The 29-year-old Denton recently spoke with the Daily Herald from Iraq, where he leads a 28-soldier detail responsible for the safety of senior U.S. military officials and occasional civilians when they tour battle zones.

 

"There are still soldiers here; we're still over here helping and assisting Iraqis to transform this country," Denton said. "Don't forget the soldiers who fought hard to put this land on solid ground."

Denton was one of eight friends from Rolling Meadows High School who signed up for the military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Among them was Bryan Anderson, who got a spectacular welcome home and national attention after losing his left arm and two legs to a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

While the war in Afghanistan gets more attention these days, there are close to 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Denton volunteered to be one of them when he left his former post as a recruiter to head overseas.

"It got difficult for me to face recruits without (having) that combat patch," he said. "Also it was difficult facing myself. So I volunteered in part for myself, in part for Bryan."

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For the foreseeable future Denton's life will be in the Army. He re-enlisted for a term that ends in 2014, and is now based in Ballad, which is north of Baghdad.

"I've decided pretty much to make it a career," he said, which would mean serving until 2022. "The way things are going, I love this career field. I love the sense of doing something right. You travel, meet interesting people, go all over and protect the freedom of your country."

While there a remains a "small threat" to U.S. forces in Iraq, Denton said it is not like it was in 2005 when Anderson was wounded. His time there has included 110 missions with "small amounts of attacks on us."

When not on a mission, Denton takes college classes online -- a rule he's also laid down for the soldiers who serve under him. He is studying toward a bachelor's degree in fire science, a field he started learning about at Harper College.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When his tour in Iraq is complete, Denton will consider several possible fields to pursue in the Army, including firefighting, recruiting, military intelligence or even entering into the officer ranks.

His 3rd Sustainment Brigade is based in Ft. Stewart, Ga., and while he plans to visit Rolling Meadows when he gets back to the United States in April, there's incentive to spend time in Georgia, too.

His wife, Jill, who recently finished law school, is waiting for him there. They met in Florida and were married about a year and a half ago.

Both his parents are deceased, and Denton considers Sandy Jubach, who was married to his father, and her husband, John, to be his parents. And he's grateful for the support shown by family and friends in the Chicago area, who send him care packages and e-mails.

The sergeant urges those who want to help soldiers to check out Woundedwarriorproject.org or anysoldier.com

As for his current home, Denton said he is confident about Iraq's future.

"Casualties and attacks have gone down," he said. "New equipment and techniques and communications have helped minimize the threat. And we have trained the Iraqi army and police to stabilize their own country.

"I know first hand that they take it personally -- security for their own country," he added. "I think it's going to work. They're taking care of business. You could tell by how much attacks have gone down."