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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2011

Kentucky Guardmember returns home, receives Purple Heart

By Misty Maynard Ledger Independent

ABERDEEN, Ohio - A staff sergeant with the 299th Chemical Company of the Kentucky Army National Guard received the Purple Heart Medal from Army Maj. Gen. John Campbell, 101st Airborne Division commander, after returning home recently.

Dennis LeFrancois, a man of few words, is a two-time veteran of war, and he recently returned from Afghanistan where he suffered injuries that earned him a Purple Heart, but when asked why he served, all he can say is that it seemed like the "right thing to do."

When asked about the difficulties of serving overseas, away from family, he will say that he missed them but that he believes the family has it harder because soldiers bond with one another and have their work to keep them busy.

LeFrancois will tell you about his injuries and what happened - a rocket hit the "B huts" or living facilities of the soldiers -- but he does not describe fear, panic or any other emotion.

If you ask him how he's doing now, he simply says, "I'm good."

From 2004-2005, LeFrancois served in Iraq as a mechanic, and after volunteering for the mission in Afghanistan, he was attached to the 2123rd Transportation Company, also serving as a mechanic.

LeFrancois said his absence is a vacation for his wife, while she teased that now that he is home, she has to adjust to his snoring again, but when the tone turns serious, the truth comes out: he is glad to be home, and his wife is glad to have him there.

"I love having him home," she said.

LeFrancois admitted it was difficult being away from home.

"Especially at the holidays," Linda said.

Dennis and Linda typically were able to talk every few days while he was in Afghanistan, but if more than a few days passed, and some news came on the television about an incident in Afghanistan, Linda LeFrancois worried until they were able to talk again.

It was Dec. 30 when LeFrancois was injured and the rocket hit, around 4:30 a.m. as he was making coffee.

LeFrancois suffered injuries to his neck, arm and the side of his knee, but he was able to call his wife to tell her news of the injuries.

Linda said her phone call came at 1:30 a.m.

"He said, 'you need to wake up, I have something to tell you,'" Linda said.

It was midnight on New Year's Eve the next time she heard from her husband that he had undergone surgery and was recovering.

LeFrancois said he went back to work after the injury, completing the final two weeks of service with the unit before packing up to head home.

"He's one of the lucky ones," she said.

LeFrancois has spent some time relaxing and catching up with family, but the downtime won't last long, his wife said.

"He's what you might consider a workaholic," she said. "He gets very fidgety if he can't work."

The company LeFrancois worked for prior to his deployment has closed, but he is optimistic he will find work quickly.

Linda said he got a response from someone while he was overseas about an application he had put in and when the woman learned he was deployed, she said to have him call whenever he was home.

LeFrancois said he would consider volunteering to serve overseas again, however when it comes to military service he advises his children and grandchildren it's not for everyone.

"It takes discipline," he said.

"And you got to believe what you are doing is right."