The UH-60 Blackhawk’s rotor blades roar as it ascends into the sky. Unit maintenance officer Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Braeme, 42, of Sublimity, watches as the helicopter disappears into the darkness of the night.
“The only part that’s tough for me is that I worry about her when she’s flying,” Braeme said about his wife, Sgt. Tracy Braeme, 37, the Blackhawk’s crew chief. “I know she’s fully capable, but – even though it’s not that dangerous, something could happen. I don’t dwell on it because it’s not worth it.”
His wife says she has little to fear. “We have the best aircraft in the National Guard or Active Duty because of Mark; he makes sure what we fly in the air is the best,” she said proudly.
In fact, her husband works extremely hard. Soldiers in their unit, C/7-158 Medevac, often hear her saying it is time to make sure her husband eats something.
“He will work through when other people stop,” Tracy Braeme said. “I make sure he takes a day off. I got him to take half a day off last week. This week, I got him to take a whole day off.”
Mark Braeme admits he is a workaholic. He is thankful to have a spouse that will watch out for him in Iraq as well as back home in Sublimity.
The Braemes are familiar with the hardships and sacrifice in their line of work. Mark Braeme is on his fourth deployment and Tracy Braeme is on her third. They feel lucky, sharing the experience together.
“It’s nice to have your best friend here when you’re having a bad day rather than communicating over email or over a really crappy phone call,” Mark Braeme said.
Although they have each other, they still miss their family back home. The couple has two children each from previous marriages.
“It’s hard to be away from our kids any time. It’s hard for my daughter, Haley, because she lived with us,” said Tracy Braeme. “She feels like both of her parents are gone.”
When the Braemes took their vacation time over the summer, they spent it with their kids in Sun River, doing normal things, like eating good food and taking group bike rides. But after two weeks, it was back to Iraq.
In the Medevac unit, the Braemes have a different kind of family, from bonds created over reoccurring deployments. When the Braemes married last Fourth of July, Mark Braeme included three of his comrades from the Medevac unit in his wedding party.
“One thing that’s nice about the Guard is that you’ve been with these people for 10 years,” said Tracy Braeme. “You know their wives and their kids, and they know yours. It helps because you have people that you trust.”
Cali Bagby has worked as an embedded journalist with Oregon’s C/7-158 Medevac and the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team for the past eight months. She graduated from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism in 2008. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, the BBC, High Country News, KVAL.com and KATU.com.