HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Ashley Fisher said she barely remembers the recent 45-minute drive to the Johnson County Armory in Franklin.

The 29-year-old Seymour resident said she was excited to see her husband as his nine-month stint with the Indiana National Guard came to an end.

Her daughter, Madison Bracken, 6, and his son, Lucas Fisher, 8, were just as ready to embrace Darrell Fisher.

“They kept saying in the car on the way up that this would be their early Christmas present,” Ashley Fisher said.

Darrell Fisher and about 160 other Indiana National Guard soldiers returned home almost two weeks ago after being gone for about nine months.

The 31-year-old Seymour resident is a member of the 1413th Engineer Company, 113th Engineer Battalion, 81st Troop Command. That unit spent more than three months outside Indiana and about five months in Afghanistan.

He was welcomed home by his wife and kids Dec. 9 at the armory.

“I just remember Madison saying, ‘There he is!’ and the next thing I know I was trying to get my camera out to video them running up, but Lucas had already been up to him,” Ashley Fisher said. “It was just really good to see their faces because they adore him to death. I was smiling so big.”

Darrell Fisher said his son, who was carrying a welcome-home sign, had an expression on his face he doesn’t see often.

“Normally, it’s hard to get him to smile and look genuine, but he had a genuine smile,” Darrell Fisher said.

Lucas said that’s because it was “awesome” to see his dad again.

“I just thought it was cool because I can spend time with him before Christmas,” he said.

Originally, Darrell Fisher was supposed to spend about a year away from home with his unit, which was called to duty in March. So Ashley Fisher, his wife of more than two years, planned out their holidays for the kids.

“I didn’t think that he would be here,” Ashley Fisher said.

But the troop’s mission was cut short, and Darrell Fisher said he wasn’t mad about that.

Ashley Fisher said neither was she. She found out via a text message that he would be home just in time for the festivities of Christmas.

“I was super excited,” she said, smiling.

Nine months away

Darrell Fisher, who is originally from Salem, joined the Indiana National Guard in 2009 to seek new opportunities.

“I just kind of wanted something that was a shift away from the way things were going,” he said.

He completed some training in Germany, but this was his first deployment to Afghanistan. The unit left March 29.

Their engineer company’s mission was to perform base-closure and other operations in support of the drawdown of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Darrell Fisher, who is a specialist in the Guard, said his focus was on deconstruction.

“We were taking building structures at the U.S. bases — down to nothing — that they didn’t need any longer,” he said.

Most of his time in Afghanistan was spent at Kandahar. He said that most of the time he felt fairly safe and protected.

“We didn’t see very much as far as fighting. That makes a big difference,” he said.

Out of communication

There was one time, however, that a situation made him nervous.

“There was a rocket attack, which is like a mortar, but it’s just like a shooting bomb from the mountains,” he said. “It seemed really close, and that freaked me out a little bit.”

He said he had to get into a bunker, though the chances of the weapons hitting them were slim.

“After the first one or two, it was not a big deal,” he said.

His wife back at home had a few nervous moments, too.

The two kept in touch mostly online through Facebook, but there was a period her husband didn’t have Internet access.

“There was a six-week period in the summer where we didn’t hear from him at all,” she said.

Though she was warned about the interruption, it didn’t make it any easier.

“Everybody kept asking me, like the neighbors and his family, they were like, ‘Why is Darrell not answering us?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then I started freaking out the more they kept asking me,” she said.

To keep her mind off his absence, she kept busy. In addition to her time with the kids, she works at Cupid’s Arrow restaurant, is a Girl Scout leader, is a teacher’s aide and baby-sits.

“It flew by until November, then it seemed like it was dragging out when I knew he was coming home,” she said.

Home at last

Since his return to Jackson County, Fisher said his transition hasn’t been too hard. He plans to return to work at Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Seymour next month.

“I think he seems the exact same,” Ashley Fisher said. “He’s always been laid-back.”

As for the holidays, the family plans to catch up on the time they missed.

“We have like five different family get-togethers we always do,” she said. “We just want to spend a lot of time together.”

Pull Quote

“They kept saying in the car on the way up that this would be their early Christmas present.”

Ashley Fisher, on the arrival of her husband, Darrell Fisher, after his deployment to Afghanistan

Pull Quote

“I just remember Madison saying, ‘There he is!’ and the next thing I know I was trying to get my camera out to video them running up, but Lucas had already been up to him. It was just really good to see their faces because they adore him to death. I was smiling so big.”

Ashley Fisher, on the ceremonial return of Darrell Fisher’s National Guard unit