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HOMETOWN HERO: Private First Class Sydney Jones deploys to Afghanistan

By Nadine Maeser, nmaeser@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 22 2013 07:22:31 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 22 2013 10:35:12 PM EDT

Private First Class Sydney Jones, a Salem native, tells WDBJ 7 why she is serving her country overseas

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

Most people have seen the tear-filled surprise reunions when a member of the armed forces returns from serving our country, but what about the goodbyes?

Private First Class Sydney Jones made the decision to leave her life in Salem to serve her country.

Now, her family is counting down the months until she comes home from Afghanistan.

Jones was just 17-years-old when she decided she needed a change of pace.

"Growing up as a kid, I didn't have the easiest life as a kid,” she said. “But I lived in America, the best country in the world, and I feel like it gave me a good start on life and I should give back."

Before she knew it, Jones was packing her bags and enlisting in the United States Army.

It's a day her father, Gordon, said he will never forget.

"Put her on the bus one day to go to boot camp and she's been gone ever since," he said.

Fast forward five years and Jones has a new wardrobe and outlook on life. Company formation is now a daily routine for her and boot camp is a distant memory.

PFC Jones soon found out she would be spending the next several months of her life in Afghanistan.

It was a rainy and hot summer day at Fort Bragg, NC when the Jones family gathered to say goodbye.

Jones' father found it hard to let go of his first born.

"It's going to be tough,” he said. “It's going to be tough, ya know. I'm used to her picking up the phone and giving me a shout every now and then and it's going to be tough. I'll be waiting."

But parting ways is only just the beginning of the battle for Jones.

"I think everybody is doing the same thing I'm doing,” she said. “Just focusing on the fact what the mission is and what we're going over there for."

Whether it was by phone or in person, the last minute goodbyes were hard to stomach.

Jones said she's both physically and mentally ready for the journey. She admits it's not an easy one, but she plans to take it one step at a time.

She said it won’t be long until her company returns home as one.

"Just like family you'll have your ups and downs but how can you not be close to someone when your life depends on them and their life depends on you,” she said.

Jones is an ammunition specialist in the Army.

Jones told WDBJ 7 she would miss two things during her deployment -- the mountains and chocolate chip cookies.

WDBJ 7 will be checking in with this Hometown Hero over the next several months while she is on the ground in Afghanistan.