UL LAFAYETTE STUDENT, FATHER SERVE TOGETHER IN IRAQ

LAFAYETTE – When UL-Lafayette student Jarred Degeyter enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard four years ago, he was still in high school. He didn’t know he would eventually be serving in Iraq along with his father.

“I really believe everyone should serve their country. Both of my grandfathers served, as well as my father. So, I always viewed it at something you were supposed to do,” he said.

A combat medic, Jarred, 22, is stationed at Camp Slayer. His dad, Capt. Curt Degeyter, 43, is a division veterinarian and an agricultural and veterinary advisor at Camp Victory. Both camps are within the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.

“My son’s enlistment inspired me to return to service,” said Curt. After serving in the Louisiana National Guard from 1985 to 1992, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2008. He volunteered to go to Baghdad when he learned there was a shortage of veterinary officers there. Both men were deployed in January.

As an advisor, Curt helps the Iraqi people establish sustainable livestock and agricultural practices. “I do a lot of teaching. The U.S. Army is applying research and technology in a number of areas, including the artificial insemination of dairy cattle. We’re teaching the technicians in the field how to improve their breeding stock and increase milk production,” he said.

“The majority of people that I work with are really no different than the people that I associate with back home in South Louisiana. They are hard workers that want the best for their families. They, however, don’t have all the luxuries that we have available and they don’t take the few luxuries they do have for granted, such as security, clean fresh water and electricity.”

Curt was a combat medic during his previous military service, so he understands his son’s work in a way most people do not. “Jarred has been trained to perform techniques in the field that combat medics were not allowed to perform back in the ‘80s, such as inserting chest tubes and performing tracheotomies. The combat medics we have in the Army today are better trained than any other military force in the world. They know their job and because of that, thousands of soldiers have gone home alive.”

When Jarred signed up to become a combat medic, he had just completed his junior year at Catholic High School in New Iberia, La. At the time, he was considering a career in medicine. But he changed his mind. Now a junior at UL-Lafayette, he is majoring in industrial technology.

Father and son get together about once a week for some down time. Jarred is part of the 256th Infantry Brigade, which has its headquarters in Lafayette, La. Most weekends, its members relax a bit and cook some Cajun food.

Curt is usually invited. “There are maybe 20 or so guys and some of them are from South Louisiana. When you’re hearing the accents and enjoying the food, you can almost forget you’re in Baghdad,” he said.

In addition to easing the stress that comes with deployment, serving together has changed the Degeyters’ relationship.

"I've always had a very close relationship with my son. He's very mature and a squared-away soldier. However, I would say that I see him more grown up and it kind of puts things in perspective. I have come to respect him as a grown man and not like a young child anymore," Curt said.

Jarred agreed. "I believe if anything has changed, it's that we have even more of a mutual respect for each other.”

Curt is slated to return home to St. Martinville, La., this summer and his son will return in November.

"When I redeploy this summer, a part of me will be left here. I’m more concerned about my son's safety than my own," he said. "I've actually thought about extending my deployment until the end of the year but my wife said it was time for me to come home."

While it will be difficult to leave Iraq knowing that his son will remain there for several months, Curt looks forward to spending time with his wife, Jamie, and returning to running his family business, a general construction firm.

“I grew up in the general contracting business. My father, Larry Degeyter, is a design-build general contractor. I’ve worked for him since I was 10.” After graduating from veterinary school in 1994, Curt moved to Texas and started an equine practice. In 2000, he sold the practice and returned to Louisiana. He took over the family construction business in 2006. Curt and Jaime Degeyter have three other children: Jacob, 20, Jill Katherine, 16, and Jaden Elizabeth, 10.

Jacob Degeyter is a student at South Louisiana Community College in New Iberia. “He has done a superior job of taking care of his mother, his sisters and the home while I’m away. He has definitely made it much easier for me to keep my mind on my job here in Iraq,” Curt said.

Jarred is also looking forward to returning home. “I was married two weeks prior to my deployment,” he said. He and his wife, Lyndsay Judice Degeyter, are planning a long-delayed honeymoon. Lyndsay Degeyter is also a UL-Lafayette student. She is majoring in fashion merchandising.

“After that, I will continue with school and get my degree,” he said.

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