Soldier must return to Iraq |

Soldier must return to Iraq

Lifetime Marine Sean Metroka says his second deployment to Iraq is considerably more bitter than it is sweet.

Earlier this month, the soft-spoken, clean-cut court executive officer for Nevada County received his orders to report to Camp Pendleton on Jan. 30.

A plane ride to Iraq should follow approximately three weeks later, he said.

Metroka already spent 10 months overseas in Kuwait and Iraq in 2002-03 as an officer for the First Marine Expeditionary Force ” and though he’s a dedicated marine, he was hoping he wouldn’t have to go back.

“I’m going to miss my family,” he said, his good-natured smile fading. “My wife and kids.”

But once a Marine, always a Marine. He joined the military when he was 17 years old and left active duty in 1985 to become a reservist shortly after he was married.

He’s been married to his wife Margaret for 22 years. The couple has three children: Sarah, 19, Andrew, 16 and Adam, 12.

The family moved from Orange County to Grass Valley in 1994 after visiting Margaret’s parents for Thanksgiving. This is where they decided the kids should be raised, he said.

A natural leader, Metroka worked as business manager for Sierra Care Physicians, then later as the Nevada County Superior Court’s finance manager. Metroka interviewed for his current position over the phone from a tent in Babylon, Iraq and eventually was hired as court executive officer, which he said enjoys immensely.

Metroka’s full of stories about Iraq’s people, places and conflict from his last tour and wouldn’t trade those memories for the world ” like the time he visited Baghdad the day after Saddam Hussein’s statue was symbolically toppled to the ground and dragged through the streets.

He made his way that day past all of the looting to an upscale neighborhood and talked with “well-educated, professional people.”

“Their number one concern was that their elementary school had been closed for years and instead it had been used as a place to manufacture suicide vests,” he said. “It was fascinating.”

Then there was the time near the end of his tour when he visited Hussein’s Al Faw palace. He made himself at home, sat in the throne and used the toilet, which was a luxury, he said, after living in a tent and doing his laundry in a pot outside.

“I made the most of it,” he said.

Metroka said his tour had an impact on him in ways that will last the rest of his life.

“Life is fleeting,” he said. “That becomes very obvious when you see other people’s lives end very quickly in front of you. You learn to make the most out of every moment that you’re breathing.”

That’s why he wants to be around here to see his 16-year-old play varsity football and guide his 12-year-old into the teenage years.

“He’s a lot like me when I was his age,” he said of son Adam. “He goes his own way and doesn’t do what the crowd is doing just because they’re doing it.”

By law, reservists can be involuntarily activated for up to 24 months in a single war or five-year-period.

Over the years, Metroka has served as an artillery battalion commander, a fires plan officer and most recently, a force fires coordinator, then Colonel in Babylon.

This time he will serve as a liaison officer stationed at an air base about 35 miles north of Baghdad.

While he is gone, Assistant Court Executive Officer Mike Glisson will step in.

Metroka is hoping his latest tour will last no more than seven months, but there are never any guarantees in the military.

Though he will miss his loved ones, he said he believes in what he is doing.

“I hate to leave this community. This is going to be a hardship on everyone around me,” he said. “But I’ll make the most of my tour. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s really going on over there.”

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