After a year in Afghanistan and four more months in Iraq, 1st Lt. Shawn Hammond, an Augusta attorney, is home again.
"Look at this - this is the one I'm most proud of," he said of the combat infantryman's badge on his chest. "Doug (Flanagan) and I are the only two lawyers in Augusta who have this."
It is the only medal a soldier is allowed to wear when not in full dress uniform, he explained.
In January 2006, the Army re-activated Lt. Hammond over his protests that he was overweight, a single parent of three and in private practice. The Army didn't care that 12 years had passed since he had served. He had military combat experience.
By April 2006 he was "MoHammond," the man in charge of training a 52-man unit of the Afghan National Army. He led more than 50 combat missions throughout Afghanistan, his colonel wrote in support of awarding Lt. Hammond a Bronze Star.
His friends and acquaintances back in Augusta held their breath when Lt. Hammond e-mailed details of the December attack on Camp Joyce on the Pakistan border. Taliban forces rained mortar and machine-gun fire from the mountain ridge above the camp. They rejoiced in learning of his safe return after assisting in the capture of the Taliban warlord Said Mir.
"It was cool guy stuff, but I'm a dad now," Lt. Hammond said in his dining room in Columbia County.
When not in combat, Lt. Hammond stopped massive amounts of fraud and waste of supplies in Kandak; helped soldiers with legal troubles from home; and donated time and gathered supplies for Afghan schools, hospitals and villages.
"Training, helping soldiers, then patrols," Lt. Hammond said. It made for full days, he said.
As a year passed, he and his family began to think about life after his service. But not yet, the Army said. There was a surge in Iraq, and Lt. Hammond got new orders.
He made it home this month after more than a year away. Now he starts over from scratch with a new law practice, he said.
He has 90 days to decide whether he wants to stay in the Reserves. If he does, he can keep the health insurance for another five years. That's important with three children, Lt. Hammond said.
After being a divorce lawyer for 10 years, exchanging gunfire with the Taliban didn't seem that bad, he joked.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAMILY: Father of three
OCCUPATION: Augusta attorney who had to spend about $1,000 to buy his own combat gear