SIDNEY — For 12 years, Brandon Lehman’s extended family was the U.S. Army. After serving his country in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lehman is ready to begin a new journey with his wife and stepson.
Lehman and his wife, Larrissa, and stepson, David Ray “D.J. Colgate, 11, have made Sidney their home. Lehman was honorably discharged from the Army and arrived in Sidney — via Alaska — on Thursday, Feb. 4. He retired as an E6 staff sergeant.
A 2002 graduate of Perry High School, Lima, and Apollo Career Center, Lima, Lehman said he always wanted to serve his country in the U.S. Army. He enlisted in 2003 and left for boot camp in January 2004.
“This was something I always wanted to do as a kid,” said Lehman. “My grandfather served in the U.S. Army and fought during the Korean War.
“I wanted discipline and direction,” he said. “I was always playing the G.I. Joes when I was growing up. I loved war movies. I looked up to the military when I was a little kid.”
Lehman served two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. He was a member of the forward unit of his battalion. Three to five soldiers, he said, would go ahead of the unit to scout the area. there were 80 to 100 soldiers in his unit.
“I was a forward observer in the artillery,” said Lehman. “I was responsible for calling in the long range artillery. One a mission, I was controlling (when and where) the jets, who were dropping the bombs.”
He would enter data into the computer system for the weapon system calculations of where shots should be fired and where his unit should place the big weapons.
It was during one of his missions in Iraq in 2005 that his vehicle struck and IED.
“The vehicle was on fire and I had to get out of it,” said Lehman. “I was sent to a U.S. Navy Hospital in Kuwait and then returned to duty.”
He earned a Purple Heart after recovering from his injuries.
“That was the third time I was blown up in Iraq,” said Lehman. “We were on a routine logistic patrol when it happened.”
And while the conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan were rugged and dangerous, Lehman found something he liked while being stationed there.
“I learned how to cook in primitive conditions,” he said. “We bought a goat off the locals. We marinated and cooked it on a makeshift grill.”
They also prepared vegetables, he said.
“It really turned out pretty good,” said Lehman.
MRE — meals ready to eat — were the staple of their diets. “The breakfast ones were pretty good,” he said. “They’re not too bad these days, not like they were years ago.”
While stationed overseas, all the soldiers learned some of the country’s language. Each unit had their own translator.
“We had basic language skills,” said Lehman. “We could all identify objects. But we always had a translators with us. We had enough skills to say good, stop, go and weapon.”
In addition to serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lehman has been stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Camp Red Cloud in South Korea, Fort Wayne and Fairbanks, Alaska.
He said when he first enlisted he didn’t know how long he would stay in the Army.
“It grew on me,” said Lehman. “I realized how much I loved it. In 2005, I re-enlisted while I was stationed in Iraq. In 2010, when I was stationed in South Korea, I re-enlisted again.”
While he still loves the Army and all the friends he made, Lehman began to feel the need to come home to Ohio.
“I got tired of being away from home,” said Lehman. “During my deployments, I was stationed all around the world. That takes you away from your family.
“I decided I wanted to be around my family and I knew I was ready to start my own family. I was ready to settle down.”
Lehman said as much as he still loves the Army, he was deployed so much that he began to realize what he was missing in Ohio.
“I missed my family as I got older. I missed birthdays, funerals and weddings. I did my time in the Army and I did it honorably. It was my turn to go home,” he said.
Lehman and his wife, who dated in the seventh grade, reconnected via Facebook when he was deployed in Afghanistan. They couple were married in 2012 and the three of them made their home in Alaska until Lehman retired from the Army.
Mrs. Lehman returned to Ohio before her husband so she could get D.J. enrolled in school.
“He was gone a lot when we were in Alaska on training,” said Mrs. Lehman.
He traveled to California, South Korea and Oklahoma and did monthlong training deployments in the three years the couple were together in Alaska.
“In Alaska we were three hours from the Arctic Circle,” said Lehman. “We were eight hours from any malls or restaurants.
“It was very cold and we enjoyed it (the cold) better than here (Ohio),” he said. “Anchorage is more humid and the wind is very strong like it is here in Ohio. Fairbanks was very dry and no wind.
“It doesn’t feel bad unless you touch something.”
The Lehmans decided to relocate to Sidney because of the family support system that is already in place. Mrs. Lehman’s parents, Helen and Leo Cantrill live on the next road over from them, and her dad, Gary Braun, lives in Wapakoneta.
Lehman’s parents, his mom, Jody Parsons, lives in Lima, and his dad, Randy Lehman, lives in Wapakoneta.
“Sidney just seemed to be a good fit,” said Lehman. “We visited in November and looked around. I love Lima and it’s just a 30 minute drive from here. I like that it’s a smaller community.”
Lehman hopes to use the computer skills he learned in the Army and transform them into a job in the local workforce.
“I’d like to get into sales and computer work,” said Lehman. “I’m looking forward to having consistent work hours.
“The Army and the military is a fluid organization and you have to change directions quality depending on what the mission is. I’ve learned to adapt over the years.”
While in the Army, Lehman earned various medals include a Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and NATO Medal. He also has taken advance and senior leader classes such as Joint Fire Power Controller Courses, which is an Air Force School where he learned to plan the implementation of dropping bombs, and an Electronic Warfare Fundamentals and Planning Course.
He plans to continue his education and earn a business management degree.
When he returned to Ohio, a family surprise welcome home was planned by Mrs. Lehman at the Olive Garden in Lima on Saturday, Feb. 6. She had been planning the event for weeks.
The waiters in the restaurant, they said, paid for their three meals. Lehman received a card signed by the staff welcoming him home and thanked him for his service to his country.
“It was hard leaving the Army,” he said. “As excited as I was to come home, I left something that I had been doing a long time. There was a bond and a lifestyle in the Army.
“I’m leaving the lifestyle and the people I knew behind but I want to continue to do good in my life,” said Lehman.