Two tours in Iraq, with other countries sprinkled in

Published 4:19 pm Thursday, August 21, 2008

Army Aviation Air Traffic Controller Sgt. Daniel Richard has returned unscathed from his final overseas tour of duty, his second in Iraq.

Richard is a Poplarville native who has served about ten years in the military in many different countries. Saturday his parents, Anthony and Carriere Hales, held a cookout in Poplarville to welcome him home from his second and last tour in the military. Anthony Hales is his stepfather, though Richard considers him his father.

In November, Richard plans to leave the military for a civilian job in Savannah, Ga. That change will allow him to spend more time with his family.

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“I can’t go back. I can’t be separated from my family any more,” Richard said. “I’ve been gone from my family for way too long.”

His return home has him back where he wants to be, in the company of his wife, Viena, and his young son Derek.

The couple met while they were stationed in Germany where both were air traffic controllers.

When Richard left for his last tour in 2007, Viena Richard was four months pregnant with Derek. He did get to come home for a week to be with his family for the birth of his son, but had to return to Iraq.

Of the nearly seven years together, the couple has only shared living accommodations for less than a year and a half due to their various military deployments, Richard said. Conflicting military schedules have only allowed them to spend a Christmas and one birthday together, his birthday.

“He owes me a lot,” Viena Richard said.

Richard is a modest man who said there are many military personnel overseas in dangerous situations every day. They kick in doors and get shot at. He said his duties only consisted of communicating with aircraft, sending them where they needed to be. The only dangerous situations he saw in Iraq involved rockets and mortars, which he did say came his way on a regular basis.

After spending time with Daniel Richard’s family the couple planned to return to their home in Savannah, where they are still adjusting to their new life together, Viena Richard said. To get away from it all and alleviate some stress, they are planning a cruise.

“You got to deal with what you’re given and make the best of it,” Viena Richard said.

One of the highlights of their time in the military involved traveling the world. Daniel Richard said he has been to Kosovo, Korea, Germany, Poland, Kuwait and Iraq. Both of them have been able to see Paris, Amsterdam, Austria and the Netherlands to name a few popular destinations.

Military service also has given them experience they can use as civilians to make careers, Richard said. He plans to take a job with the Department of Defense as an air traffic controller. Viena Richard plans go to school to earn a degree in pediatric nursing.