Teammates and classmates more than a decade ago in Vincent, three Warren High School alumni now find themselves in the same part of the world again - Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert "Andy" Blum, a 2003 Warren graduate, is in the second month of a nine-month deployment to Kabul. Prior to his departure, he learned that former Warrior football teammate Marine 1st Lt. Adam Klemm was also serving in the Kabul area, while their fellow Warren wrestler, Army Sgt. Shane Angle was in the country farther to the east.
"It is a big world, and for the three of us to all be in the same foreign land 11 years later I thought was a cool story (that) describes the heart and patriotism of our small little corner of Ohio," Blum said in an email to The Marietta Times.
Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Robert Blum
Marine 1st Lt. Adam Klemm, left, and Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Andy” Blum are shown at a NATO base near Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan recently. Both are Warren High School graduates.
Blum said it had been 11 years since he'd seen Klemm, but they were friends on Facebook. Some of his duties take him to the base where Klemm is stationed, and recently, the two had a chance to spend some time together.
"Andy and I sat and had a coffee and discussed where we have been, our experiences in the military, the people who we knew in school and classmates we have lost in the last 10 years," Klemm said in an email this week. "We both expressed pride in our service and were blessed to have seen a wider perspective of the world."
Blum said it's logistically impossible for him to visit Angle, who he actually sponsored in the Army's delayed entry program.
Angle knew early on that he wanted to join the military, said his mother Brenda, of Fleming.
"He graduated one week, got married the next week, then went to basic shortly after that," she said.
Angle works with the Army's drone program and has also served a tour in Iraq, as did his older brother Jason, also in the Army.
Brenda Angle said it doesn't surprise her that these three are serving their country, as are other Warren graduates.
"It seems to me a lot of our area young men are patriotic and have seen that as not only a great opportunity to get out and see and do things but also an opportunity to serve their country," she said.
An email from Sgt. Angle was not received by deadline Friday.
Like Angle, Blum enlisted in the Army before he graduated. His first assignment was with the 230th Military Police Company in Kaiserslautern, Germany, from November 2003 to November 2005. He served at Fort Bliss, Texas, for several years before his current assignment as a squad leader with the 92nd Military Police Company in Baumholder, Germany. During that time he served three deployments in Iraq.
His wife Jessica and two children, Matthew, 6, and Haley, 4, are living in Germany, and they have another daughter on the way.
Although he's been living all over the world, the Mid-Ohio Valley remains in his mind, especially the sacrifices of its military members.
"There has been so much tragedy associated with the military members of our local area in the news over the past two years, young Kyle (Hockenberry) losing his legs, and Josh (Taylor) dying in that horrible training accident," Blum said. "I don't know either of them but I am proud of their service. They have represented the Mid-Ohio Valley with honor and courage, and so few are willing to make these sacrifices for their fellow man anymore. They are my heroes."
Klemm graduated from Warren in 2002 and joined the Marines, serving for four years as a small arms repair tech in Maryland, near Washington, D.C. In 2007, he left active duty and moved to Utah to be near his fiancee and attend college at Weber State University. Over the next four years, he worked full-time, started a family, served as a Marine reservist armory chief and earned his bachelor's degree in athletic therapy.
Following 10 months of Marine Corps basic officer training, he was assigned as a combat engineer platoon commander in Okinawa, Japan, in October. He's in Afghanistan on a six-month tour, charged with managing equipping issues for the engineers who clear critical roads and highways in the country.
Asked if there were any parallels between serving in the military and his time as a member of the football, track and wrestling teams at Warren, Klemm said "both attract goal oriented people and require physicality" and "teamwork and trust are key in both worlds."
However, he said serving in the military brings people much closer than athletics, and he generally doesn't care for the comparison.
"The idea of likening sports and coordinated violence works only on very tenuous grounds," he said.