EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – When Ernie Griffin was nearing the end of his Harrison High School career, he never envisioned a career in the military. In fact, he’ll admit that he was the last person you would expect to enlist.
“I was a bit of a class clown, I had some fun in high school, and the idea of me joining the military was kind of out in left field,” says Captain Ernie Griffin.
Griffin joined the National Guard at age 17, six weeks after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Within his first few years in the National Guard, Griffin would be deployed twice between 2005 and 2007.
“My first deployment in 2005, I was a gunner on a Humvee, and my second deployment I worked in supply, and so those are two very different deployments with very different missions,” explains Griffin.
Since that time, however, much has changed. Griffin admits it is a different world today than it was 15 years ago. But his world has changed since then, too. During his initial days in the service, he and his wife Natalie were only dating. Fast-forward to 2022, the Griffin’s have a home and two young daughters, Ella and Brooklynn.
“Soldiers volunteer, but families are drafted,” says Capt. Griffin. “So for us, it has been challenging just waiting for this day to arrive.”
‘This day’ Capt. Griffin is referring to is the August deployment to Iraq. The Griffin family received confirmation of this reality at the end of 2021, and have since tried to take advantage of every moment, embarking on several family vacations, spending time in the pool, and having family game nights.
“When I found out he was deployed, I was really sad, but I know he’s doing it for good,” recalls 9 year old Ella. “And he said, ‘If I don’t go, someone else will have to go’.”
Brooklynn, age 16, says she will miss having her dad nearby for help on school work.
“I always ask for help on my homework, and I always have him proofread my essays and stuff, so that’s definitely going to be sad and frustrating to not have,” says Brooklynn.
Natalie says she has been taking it one day at a time since learning of the deployment, and has found a support group with family members and friends. She says there are several people who have offered to help with day to day trials that may arise. Natalie also says she is thankful for the various forms of virtual communications they can use this time around, something that was not in use back in 2005.
“I know that we will grow from this tremendously,” says Natalie. “You know, we’ve got a pretty easy life, and this will be something that the girls will look back on and know that we grew from this experience.”
The deployment to Iraq will last just over one year, with soldiers at the 1st Battalion 163rd Field Artillery departing in early August. The mission, according to Capt. Griffin, will provide support to coalition security forces in the country. Having recently obtained his doctorate, Capt. Griffin plans to return to work in education administration following this deployment.