Iraq awaits South Tahoe grad as enlistment obligation nears end |

Iraq awaits South Tahoe grad as enlistment obligation nears end

William Ferchland

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Chris Herzog, right, discusses his upcoming first tour of Iraq as his wife, Veronica Herzog, left, looks on. Herzog's mother, Lynn Ervin, is holding her grandson, Christian. The soldier will be assigned to Iraq next month.

Chris Herzog has about 18 months left on his five-year contract with the Army. He’s spent most of his Army time in South Korea. He’s married and has a 4-month-old son.

Next month he’ll be dispatched to Iraq for the first time. He’ll be gone for a year.

Sitting at a table at Rude Brothers Bagel & Coffee Haus, the 2002 graduate of South Tahoe High School contemplated his station in life, how he got there and what he expected in the volatile land of Iraq as a military police officer.

Herzog enlisted in the Army as a high school junior not yet 18 years old. A challenge is what he wanted. The Navy wasn’t a viable option because he didn’t like the idea of being on a boat in the middle of an ocean. The Air Force was undesirable since he didn’t want to work with airplanes.

Herzog’s mother, Lynn Ervin, recalled when an Army recruiter told her that any war would be fought from the air without the support of ground troops. It reassured her.

“That convinced us that it would be OK,” she said.

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Then terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon with hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001.

A week or so later Ervin asked her teenage son if he wanted to call the recruiting office and cancel his enlistment.

“Right away he said nope. It didn’t change his mind,” Ervin said.

Herzog said the attacks strengthened his resolve to serve his country. The job has been satisfying, although demanding, he said.

“It’s been really fun, exciting, challenging at times,” he said. He then mentioned the long hours. “It’s like a 15- to 24-hour job.”

He spent two years in South Korea. It wasn’t exactly a cushy assignment with the constant possibility of wrongdoing by neighboring North Korea, he said.

“It’s not that bad, but you have occasional threats,” he said.

But Herzog met and married his wife, Veronica, while overseas and the two have a 4-month-old son, Christian.

The family took a road trip from Kansas, where Herzog is stationed, to South Lake Tahoe to visit family. Herzog expects to leave for Iraq sometime early next month.

Lessons have been given to Herzog on language and religion in Iraq. He was taught words in Arabic such as “stop” and “halt,” he said.

Asked if he looked forward to his mission in Iraq, Herzog indicated he was torn but had already expected he would be called upon to go.

“Army-wise, yes. Family-wise, probably not,” he said.

When Veronica Herzog was asked what she thought of her husband’s upcoming assignment, she turned away and silently wept. She will stay at the base in Fort Riley, Kan., with her son while her husband is in the Middle East.

Herzog said he hopes to carry over his training as a military police officer to some sort of law enforcement position once his stint in the Army is complete. He’s intending to earn a degree in criminal justice.

“I’m very proud of all that he’s accomplished and gained,” Ervin said.