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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Like father like daughter

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Steve Dolph and his daughter Morgan, a Le Mars Community School senior, are both embarking on a military journey this summer. For Steve, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, the journey is his third tour of duty in Iraq. For Morgan, her journey is basic training in South Carolina. She signed up to join the same unit as her father. Photo by Timeless Impressions Photography
LE MARS - This week, Le Mars resident (and Cherokee native) Staff Sgt. Steve Dolph is heading to training for his third tour of duty in Iraq.

His daughter, Morgan, a senior at Le Mars Community School, doesn't want to say goodbye. She wants to go with him. The only thing that's standing in her way: basic training.

In September Morgan joined the same unit of the U.S. Army Reserves that her father serves in. When her father is preparing to fly to Iraq this summer, she'll be enrolled in basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Last February, Morgan told her dad she wanted to sign up for the Army Reserves.

At first, Steve didn't give his consent.

"When she finally said she wanted to serve the country, I agreed," Steve said. "She had to be there for the right reason."

As for Steve, he joined the Army Reserves Oct. 31,1985. He did so partly for the schooling opportunities and to earn money, he said. But something more than that has kept him in for 24 years, through two tours in Iraq.

Whenever he talks about the Army Reserves, his focus is serving the country.

"He's a great guy, he's done a lot for everybody," Morgan said. Her dad doesn't talk about his military experiences a lot, but that doesn't mean she hasn't learned from him.

"I've seen my dad do it since I was born," she said.

Still, she said it was 100 percent her own decision to join the Army Reserves.

"I just truly wanted to serve my country," she said. "And I think you get so much out of the military."

She said she can't wait for basic training. "It's going to be hard, but I'm really excited," she said. "I've been drilling with them (her unit) and they've taught me a lot." After she finishes college, Morgan has more military on her mind.

"I would like to go active duty someday and put in my 20 years," she said.

For Steve, training begins this week, and he is ready to head back to Iraq. "Mentally, I'm already there. I've already switched over to the military mode," he said. "You know what you've got to do: get your mission done and get home safely."

One thing about Iraq he is dreading is the heat. "People here have no idea what heat is," he said with a laugh. "Last time I came back and it was 100 degrees here and I was wearing a sweatshirt." He's seen temperatures in Iraq run past 120 degrees, he said.

This time Steve's unit, the 445th Transportation Company of Waterloo, Sac City and Cherokee, will be working with Iraqi soldiers to help with supply transportation. The tour of duty will last a little more than a year. Steve's first trip to Iraq came in 2003.

"I was a truck driver for HETs (Heavy Equipment Transports)," Steve said. "They're meant for moving tanks."

This first tour of duty wasn't too bad, he said. His unit didn't have to deal with any Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) like roadway bombs.

The second tour, in 2004, was a little more hairy. "I was in supply, and we drove freightliners that moved water, food, equipment and 30,000-pound barriers," he said. They experienced more IED explosions along the road.

"And they were firing mortars and rockets at our post," Steve remembered. "Once they exploded 150 gallons of diesel fuel."

Is Steve worried about Morgan being in danger if she ever is called to duty in Iraq or elsewhere? Yes and no, he said.

"If she's lucky, we'll be out of Iraq by the time she can go," he said. "But I'm proud of her, that she wants to go with us."

Steve described Morgan as smart and stubborn. But he knows her soft side, too.

"Saying goodbye is going to hurt," he said, adding that Morgan's boyfriend will also be heading to Iraq with the 445th Transportation Company.

"My entire unit is leaving," she said. "I've been training with them since September."

Goodbyes are one of the hardest parts of serving abroad, but coming back to your family can be even harder, Steve said.

"While you're gone, your family becomes independent from you," he said.

The Dolph family keeps in touch with him when he's in Iraq by phone and email, and some letters, too.

"Mail is always a good thing," Steve said. "We get a lot of letters, some from school kids."

Even staying in touch, it's hard, Steve's wife Lori Dolph said. And sending her daughter Morgan overseas would be even more difficult.

"It's one thing to send your husband into a war zone, but you never hope to send your child," she said. "I'm proud of her for wanting to serve her country, but I hope in my heart she'll never be deployed."

If the call came, though, Lori knows where her daughter's heart lies.

"If she could, she would go with her unit," Lori said.

Even though Steve is leaving for training, he didn't have to miss one big milestone for Morgan - when she walked across the LCS stage to accept her diploma in May.

Morgan hopes they can share more milestones in the future. The father and daughter may one day serve in uniform side by side.

"I would love that," Morgan said.

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