Making the most out of being home

If Jeff Walker had his way, time would stand still today.

At the very least, it would creep along, slower than a snowman melting on Mount Ashland in the dead of winter. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday would be frozen in time.

On Thursday, Walker heads back to Iraq.

"Yeah, I definitely want time to slow down while I'm here," Walker said. "Every day I'm home, it feels like the days are going by faster and faster. That's killing me.

"So I try to wake up early every day to get the most out of being home," he added. "I'll do anything to slow the day down."

In four days, Walker will hop aboard a jet to begin his long journey back to Nasiriyah to complete the final three months of his scheduled year in country.

From Nasiriyah he will head out to a tent base in the desert. Most of the roughly 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq are now in remote areas.

Walker initially joined the Army to obtain experience in his quest to eventually become a medical doctor. A hitch in the military will help pay his way through college, he explained.

He signed up in a delayed-entry program before graduating from high school. Three weeks after graduating, he was in Fort Knox for two months of basic training. Following that he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for five months of intensive training to become a medic.

After a visit home he was deployed to Iraq, where he has been since March. In the desert outpost, his unit has endured unbearable heat, improvised explosive devices, small-arms fire and instant meals.

When Walker arrived back in the Rogue Valley for a 15-day leave on Nov. 16, he was greeted at the airport by his friends and a blended family that includes two older sisters, an older brother and two younger brothers still in high school. Leading the charge was mom, Lisa Dee Severson of Medford, who roasted two turkeys with all the trimmings in his honor for Thanksgiving.

"There are no words to express the amount of pride I have in my son," she said. "He's amazing, and our family is so blessed to have him. Thanksgiving has a new meaning."

Walker considers Glenn Gumaer of Medford, his mom's fiancé, his stepfather.

"They've been dating pretty much my whole life — I love the guy," he said.

But he just missed meeting up with a cousin, Cody Smith, 20, of Ruch, a 2009 graduate of South Medford High School, who joined the Army about the same time. Now a private first class in the infantry in Afghanistan, Smith came home on leave in September.

"I would have liked to see Cody when he was here — I just missed him," he said.

But Walker, who played safety and wide receiver for the Phoenix Pirates, didn't miss the Nov. 20 football game between Oregon State University Beavers and USC in Corvallis.

"I've played football ever since I was a little kid, then four years in high school," he said. "It was awesome to see."

In addition to hanging out with local buddies, he has spent his time bow-hunting for deer and cutting a few Christmas trees for his family.

Although he is making the most of his visit home, his thoughts often go back to his buddies in Iraq. He expects his unit to be back stateside at Fort Carson, Colo., by mid-March.

"Going back to Iraq for a couple of more months is nothing," he said.

"But I couldn't be happier being able to be home for Thanksgiving. It's been awesome."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at

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