Army Specialist Andrew Melby was welcomed home by family and friends at the airport in Madison following a one-year tour in Afghanistan.
Melby, who is a 2010 graduate of Iola-Scandinavia High School, is now serving his second year of a three-year term.
“It feels good to be good at something. I like the excitement and I want to lead others in combat,” Melby said.
Spending 12 months in Afghanistan, Melby is reluctant to talk about what happened there.
“It’s hell. It’s unpredictable. I have seen lots of death and dismemberment over there.” he said.
He proudly wears a memorial bracelet in honor of his friend, Pfc. Brandon Mullins, who did not make it home.
“You walk out on patrol and wonder will this be the last time? You fear for your life every day. You never know when your time is up,” he said. “The hardest part of being away is that you miss out on a lot of things. Birthdays. Graduation. It’s not easy.”
Melby added, “I missed my Grandma Mary Lou (Melby) the most. I spent every day with her before I left. I know how much she needs me. I really missed all the little things that she says and does.”
Stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, Melby plans on re-enlisting for another three-year term.
“I am hoping to go to Ranger School in the near future,” he said. “The military has changed my life. I have a whole new level of responsibility. It keeps me out of trouble, it keeps me disciplined and has made me a better man.”
Melby is the son of Melissa Van Deest, Watertown, and Allan and Rhonda Melby, Waupaca. He is the grandson of Don and Amy Van Deest and Mary Lou Melby, Scandinavia, and Janelle Sweeny, Iola.