by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—Public Works Superintendent John Nevenhoven is leaving late next month, heading off to a “temporary job” about 6,000 miles away on the other side of the world.
His new title will be Navy Lieutenant Nevenhoven as he heads off to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty. He expects to be away for 13 months, with a report date of Oct. 21. For his first trip to the Middle East in 2006, Nevenhoven had only about two weeks to get ready.
“I’m not sure which is worse, the scrambling or anticipation,” he said.
Nevenhoven’s job will be here when he returns from serving his country, something he said gives him great peace of mind.
“The support that the Village Board and administration have shown has been tremendous and reduces my stress level,” he said. “I’m thankful for that.”
Village President Dave Anderson said the village will survive during his absence.
“Our well wishes go with John and his family,” Anderson said.
“I really do appreciate what the village has done for me,” Nevenhoven said. “When you serve part-time and your part-time job calls you and takes you away for 13 months, your full-time employer isn’t always real pleased about it.”
He said he works with “a great bunch of people” in the Public Works Department and wouldn’t be able to do this without their support.
Being called to duty is always stressful for families. Nevenhoven said he and Melissa, his wife of 19 years (their anniversary is Sept. 5), sat down with their two boys, Ryan, 12, and Jack, 3, to tell them their daddy will be gone for a while. Ryan remembers the last time his father was away.
“We sat him down and told him I’m going back over again, and of course he wasn’t all that pleased about it,” he said. “I think he’s starting to come to terms about it a little bit better, but obviously, as the date gets closer, the anxiety ramps up.”
Nevenhoven’s new job will be as the logistics officer for a provincial reconstruction team.
“With reconstruction teams, you’re assigned to a particular area and help the local elders to govern themselves,” he said. “It’s not so much you’re there to do it for them, but to help them with how to do these things to become self-sufficient.”
He said he’s a supply officer for the Navy, but that other branches of the military often tap into certain skill sets that are deemed valuable. During the last tour, Nevenhoven worked on logistics for the Army. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll be assigned to an all-Army group, or all-Navy.
To keep in touch with his family, Nevenhoven plans to bring along a laptop. He said where you are determines what kind of wireless access is available.
“If you’re closer to the major cities, such as Kabul or Kandahar, your access to that kind of infrastructure is greater,” he said. “The further you get out into the hinterlands, obviously, you don’t quite have that robust of a connection.”
But having the connection to “back home” has its downside.
“It’s one of those things where, yes, it’s nice to hear the voices and hear what’s going on,” he said. “But I’ve seen it happen where they (soldiers) get caught up in the day-to-day problems of what’s going on 6,000 miles away and then become incredibly frustrated.
“They can’t do it; you can’t help, you’re just not there,” he said.
Nevenhoven also credits his friends and neighbors whom he said will be there to take care of things at home if there’s a problem with the house or the cars.
“Life goes on,” he said. “My wife is wonderful. She’s been through this before. She’s smart, she’s independent, and can get things done.”
Nevenhoven said during his last tour, he found that the local people he worked with have the same basic desires that we do in this country.
“They want to live without fear, want to be able to raise their families, be able to work and be able to worship the way that they want to,” he said.
“If we can help them develop the tools to be self-sufficient,” he added, “I think it would be worthwhile.”