Derek Best, 20, can fix radios and computers and lay wire for phones and the Internet. He's the one clinging to the top of a 30-foot phone pole running wire in a usual 16-hour work day.
His mother, Debbie Best, remembers when Derek called her and mentioned that he almost fell off one of those poles during a sand storm.
A sand storm in Iraq. Best is a specialist with the Army 403rd Cargo Transportation Company of the 1st Corps Support Command stationed out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
But for 15 days he's at home, where a "Welcome Home" banner is stretched across the front window of his parents' Carson City home.
Although at first timid to tell stories about Iraq, Best's sense of humor soon gets the better of him.
"We have a ghetto cherry picker," he said with a smile. "I mean ghetto because it's just a forklift with a pallet. We do improvise quite a bit."
Best said there's always something to do when you're stationed in Iraq. Now on his second tour, he mostly handles communication but also drives a gun truck. When Best isn't doing that he's outfitting the all-terrain vehicles with armor, since they don't come with it.
Debbie Best has a picture of her son in the "bone yard," which is the scrap metal dump where the troops find quarter-inch steel to attach to the vehicles.
His war stories are similar to the daily news. The Iraqi National Guard is getting bombed by insurgents. Best has seen people killed, but he prefers not to think about it. In his battalion alone about 20 soldiers have been killed.
"For the most part these are nice people," he said about the Iraqis. "They're crazy drivers though. And they have a different concept of time. It takes them longer to get a project done."
Best said that he's seen the security improve over his two tours. He observes that there are more check points and convoys manned by Iraqis.
His second tour ends in about three months. But because he's active Army, he could be in Iraq longer. Best joined in August 2002, right after graduating from Carson High School.
"There's a good recruiter here that his mother could strangle," said Debbie Best, a retired Nevada Department of Transportation employee.
Best joined to get money for college and to see the world. His first deployment was from June 2003 to February 2004. He plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno upon his return.
"I was born and raised here and went out and saw other places, Iraq and Georgia, and Carson City is pretty good."
He'll celebrate his 21st birthday Monday by "partying it up" with his older brother, Jeremy. Before that they'll have a family barbecue, and before that he'll go grocery shopping with his mother. They'll talk about the world and politics, something she said her son didn't think about before joining the Army.
"He's a lot more mature now than he was," she said. "We're proud of him."
If you go
What: National Support Our Troops Day
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Legislative Plaza on South Carson Street
Who: Soldiers Angels
Information: Call 882-1425
Participants are encouraged to bring flags, banners and pictures of soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Where: Picnic, poker run and blood drive to benefit Disabled American Veterans
When: Registration for motorists and motorcyclists is 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Carson City Harley-Davidson, 2749 N. Carson St.
Cost: Barbecue picnic is included in $15 fee, $5 for extra hands
Information: Call 841-3655 or 882-7433
Grand prize: $250 savings bond
- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.