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Millington grad DeClue returns home after tour in Afghanistan

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

William DeClue

William DeClue

PLT Photo (2)PLT Photo (3)

Steve DeClue welcomed his son back home to Millington the best way he knew how.
Retired from the U.S. Navy, the elder DeClue made special plans for the homecoming of William back from Afghanistan. Accompanied by the Patriot Guard Riders, Steve greeted the younger DeClue at Memphis International Airport with an official Hero’s Welcome.
“My Dad came and picked me up but he had a motorcycle escort waiting on me,” William recalled. “That was pretty cool. But to just see him, of course he was pretty emotional. I’m not that emotional but it was definitely a good feeling. And that kind of surprised me, the motorcycle escort from the airport to the house.”
Back in the United States July 18, William finally made it back to Flag City on Aug. 12.
“It definitely brought back some memories being back home,” he said. “Just being back home, there’s a lot to adjust to. Buildings like this or watching vehicles go by, it’s  a lot to take in. Seeing old friends is like a medium to me. It’s a good solid medium that kind of takes the stress off the homecoming.”
William, a 2007 graduated of Millington Central High School, was officially enlisted into the U.S. Army August 26 of that year while studying at The University of Memphis. He was commissioned after graduated in 2011.
It was Nov. 7, 2012 when DeClue stepped foot into Afghanistan. His mission, along with his company, was to battle the Taliban and help strengthen those in charge of protecting the citizens and government.
“My job was Security Force Assistance,” he noted. “With the whole war winding down, our main goal was to set the Afghan forces, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Local Police, Afghan National Civil Police, setting them up for success. Because the Taliban still have a really good influence in the area I was in.”
With the opposition of the Taliban not in a uniform and recruiting everyday people and children for their cause, DeClue noted things Americans take for granted changed the way of life as he knew it.
“Although I’m back home, there’s still some built up stress,” he acknowledged. “Because everything that was normal before I left to go to Afghanistan wasn’t normal for me anymore. While in Afghanistan, I got used to things while I was there. People call it the ‘new norm.’
With only one gravel road constructed by the U.S. Army, DeClue and his colleagues had a job to do in working with the Afghan National Army, protecting citizens, identifying the enemy and protecting one another.
DeClue said several of the Afghanistan natives are ready for freedom from the Taliban. DeClue recalled the Peshingan Uprising with one man standing up to the Taliban. The 60-year-old village owner was able to rally many on to Afghanistan forces, producing a successful model of Afghan-driven security backed by U.S. combat power in Panjwayi and adjoining Zhari district.
DeClue said the uprising is just one of many examples of the changes going on in Afghanistan and stronger security the U.S. Military has overseen.
DeClue and his platoon were on the frontline for nine months teaching Afghan forces and battling the Taliban. He has been grooming himself for such a job since his days of walking the halls at MCHS.
He was deployed to FOB Zangabad, in the Panjwa’i district of the Kandahar Province Afghanistan  from November 2012 to July 2013  with the 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4-9 Infantry Battalion, Comanche Company.
DeClue was assigned as 2nd Platoon Leader. During this deployment his unit found and destroyed 900 IED’s, he led numerous combat missions, captured high value targets and built combat outpost.
He was also awarded his Combat Infantry Badge by General Martin Dempsey (Chairman, Joints Chiefs of Staff) and the Bronze Star for his actions in combat and leadership during his deployment.
Born at the Naval Hospital in Millington in 1989, DeClue was a member of National Honor Society, the Navy JROTC program attaining the rank of Cadet Commander and the Millington Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership program.
He went on to The University of Memphis on a Army ROTC scholarship where he was the Battalion Commander and graduated in May 2011 with a BA in Criminal Justice. Upon Graduation he was commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant in the active Army and attended Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC), Airborne, and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.  He reported to Fort Lewis, Wash. in July 2012.
While at MCHS, DeClue won several awards for his marksmanship. He said those skills did come in handy while in Afghanistan.
“Not only just in combat, I’m a platoon leader so I really don’t shoot that much,” he recalled. “I’m more less calling the shots or using our assets to help fight a little better. But training the Afghan National Army, Police, definitely helped out with my background in shooting.”
His skills and leadership have moved DeClue up the ranks. And with a return to Fort Lewis in his near future, he said he will make decisions on his next step in his military career. But for now he’s just happy to be home.
Around the time DeClue returned to Shelby County, Bartlett’s Sgt. Stephen New returned from Afghanistan to be laid to rest. The Defense Department said 29-year-old New died July 28 in Bagram. New’s unit came under fire in the Sarobi District of Kabul Province when he was shot.
“It makes you realize nobody is invincible,” DeClue said. “You can’t take any day for granted.”
DeClue said the death of New reminds him of the dangers and consequences of the job and how making it home alive is a blessing.
“This is our job and we have to keep that focus like that,” he said. “That’s definitely the mindset of every solider. We’re on the frontline so you can’t, I tell my guys all the time, ‘You can’t be timid when it comes to that.’
“If you’re timid or hold yourself back because you’re scared that might be the problem that effects the outcome of you getting struck by a bullet or stepping on an IED,” he concluded.

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