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MCHS grad serves two tours in Afghanistan, returns home to enjoy freedoms he helped protect

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Molder was one of the sharp-eye shooters for the U.S. Army while in Afghanistan. Glad to return home safely, Molder said a part of his heart will always be with his fellow soldiers who didn't make it back to the United States.

Molder was one of the sharp-eye shooters for the U.S. Army while in Afghanistan. Glad to return home safely, Molder said a part of his heart will always be with his fellow soldiers who didn’t make it back to the United States.

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U.S. Army Specialist Gene Molder had a hard time finding his way around Millington last month.
After three years away and two tours in Afghanistan, the 2006 Millington Central High School graduate got re-introduced to his hometown, to a McDonald’s moved from Navy Road to Highway 51. And Molder had to navigate the newest road in Flag City, Veterans Parkway.
“I have to admit I got lost,” Molder said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been home. But it’s so awesome to be back home.”
Home for the holidays, Molder completed his second tour fighting the War on Terrorism after a nine-month stay in Afghanistan. The son of Bill and Letha Molder left on Feb. 27 and returned after Thanksgiving to his wife Felicia.
The couple was married on June 15, 2012. After spending time with his bride, the couple made the trip to Millington to spend Christmas with Gene’s family including his younger sister Heidi. The only person missing was the Molder’s oldest child Laura.
“It means everything in the world to you as a dad or as a parent to have your child back home,” Bill said. “It means the world to me these days to have all three under one roof at the same time.”
Laura is living in South Carolina while Heidi is closer to home working at Boatwright Pharmacy and attending school.
All three of the Molder children played sports for the Millington Trojans. Gene was a letterman in football and track. Molder played fullback, linebacker and offensive guard guiding the Trojans to three playoff appearances.
Then in October 2009 he enlisted into the Army. And he was sworn in on Feb. 2, 2010 in Memphis. After stops in Georgia and Germany, Molder was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time for 10 months.
His most recent tour made Molder miss home even more.
“What I miss the most is family, friends and food,” he said. “American food. I’m from the South so the food I miss most is barbecue. I miss Mama’s taco soup and deer chili.”
Bill said another thing his son missed gave them a chance to reconnect.
“Since I’ve been off Friday we’ve been in the woods,” the elder Molder said. “It’s good to be back in the woods with my son and his little sister.”
Gene smiled as talked about all three bringing home bucks from their hunt. After spending time with family, Molder also reached out to old friends like James Walton and Jerry Cormier.
Molder said high school and football gave him friends for life. And the war has given him brothers who gave their lives to protect him.
“To be in full and complete health depends on people around you,” Molder said. “You trust your life to everyone who is around you. Some guys don’t come home.
“And that changes you mentally,” he added. “If it doesn’t, you’re not human. And we’re all human. We lost three good guys. So to come home with my physical health, I’m happy to be in one piece. But I would give a limb to have those guys be able to come home.”
Bill said one of the best ways to pay tribute to those lost in the war is building a stronger America and improving the family foundation with love. And having his son back home for the 2013 holiday season was made possible by those heroes.
“This was my Christmas,” he said. “This was my gift. This has been the best part of my year.”

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