Greg Duke recently ran the Summerfest 5K (26:26) in Atlanta, but so did a few hundred other runners. What makes Greg different is that a few days later Greg was flying over the Atlantic Ocean and back to Kuwait. Greg is a Staff Sergeant who has been in the Army for eight years and is currently on a two year assignment. He is supporting the commanding general of the United States Army Central (USARCENT), which is the largest component under Central Command (CENTCOM). His last leave was probably the most eventful he has ever had. He was able to squeeze in a 5K and witness the birth of his first child, Cayden Elijah Duke.
Q: How many deployments to Kuwait/middle east?
I've flown across the ocean about 20 times. I'm fortunate enough to work in a command who is divided into a forward headquarters (Kuwait) and a stateside headquarters (Atlanta). So I do a lot of traveling.
Q: Did you get special permission to come home for the birth?
Yes, luckily we were already back in the states, but they did allow me extend my leave for the birth.
Q: Tell me how it felt to be able to be home for the baby's birth?
I'm not an emotional guy, and was not sure if the dates would work out...however after being here for his birth, this was by far the greatest experience of my life.
Q: What all did you do during your leave?
Jessey had to have a C section so we had to stay in the hospital a few extra days, recovery for her was amazingly fast. Within 3 days of the birth, her and I went out to a nice dinner and celebrated, within 5 days we were at the park with baby Cayden (I was running, she was walking).
Q: Why did you decide to the 5K during your leave?
My boss and the rest of my team are avid runners. We were training for a half marathon until spring and summer temperatures got to hot for that much running. In the Army we constantly run road races both in Atlanta and overseas...they increase athleticism and build team morale. Once I found out I'd be coming home, it was a no brainer and gave the family something to do.
Q: We all have thoughts that go through our head while running, what thoughts ran through your mind during your 5K and your busy week?
It's funny... I wake up around 3:30 AM while deployed and go for runs bc it's the coolest time of the day. While running through the desert along the fence line I sometimes get to catch the sun rising and to me it's the most incredible sight to take in, I always think to myself here I am in a foreign country...a combat zone but for this one moment there are no worries of any type of attack, and I can just take it all in. It's unfortunate that I don't feel the same way in my very own country. I would never wake up at 3:AM and go for a run because, the fear of being robbed is always present. While running the Virginia Highlands Summerfest 5K, I noticed how especially friendly everyone was and I got a certain high from just being around the good spirits. It certainly is a reminder that amidst this crazy world we live in there are still good people, who run for a good cause.
Q: I know it is hard to leave, but how much more difficult was it this time since you just had the baby?
Incredibly hard...probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. There is a certain love that a father feels for his child, one that if you've never had a son or daughter you can't possibly understand. It doesn't get any easier each time I leave either, however I understand sacrifices must be made. I also know that there are families out there who don't have the same luxury as I do, and sometimes don't see their families for a year to 15 months. Jessey and I have computers with webcams and she consistently sends me pics of the little guy so that certainly helps.
Q: When on deployment how much running do you get in and where?
Well before the temperature shot up over the past couple months I was running about 30 miles a week and this all took place outside in the early mornings. Now I'm very much limited with temperatures reaching the 120's daily...probably about 20 miles a week with more then half coming from the treadmill.
Q: Strangest thing to happen to you during a run on deployment? What things run through your mind as you are running in the middle east?
My first deployment to Qatar I was out running and reached about 4 miles out when a desert fox came out of no where and ran with me for a little while... Talk about being scared. He just ran along side with me until he became tired. While running out here... I constantly think of my family, they mean the world to me! I also think of my friends who are in Iraq and Afghanistan right now and how rough they are having it.
Q: Do you want to do a half or full marathon some day?
Full marathon...ummmm, I think with the right people and the right environment I would enjoy training and competing in one just to say I've done so. As for the half marathon that is certainly on my to do list.
Ohh yeah I almost forgot, while you guys will be running the Peachtree race in buckhead. We over here will be running our own Peachtree 10K Fun Run on July 4th so that should be interesting.