A Soldier's Diary: SGT Ivan Planko

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Eleven and a half months. That's how long Sergeant Ivan Planko spent away from home. He's a soldier in Fort Carson’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. In this “Soldier's diary,” we meet a man who spent a year away from him family, to find out what he missed and what he accomplished.

Sacrifice---You begin to understand what that means when you hear about a dad spending nearly a year apart from “Daddy's Little Girl.” And this is not the first deployment for SGT Planko. A year earlier, he went Kuwait to patrol the border with Iraq.

You could call it bad timing. "She was upset with me. ‘You left me again, Daddy. What's wrong with you?’" During the first deployment, he missed his daughter's birth. Then he went to Iraq just before her first birthday. "You've always got that thing---‘Is she even going to recognize me when I get home?’"

But 2-year-old Shelby did recognize Dad, even after he spent all that time in Iraq. "My job gives the soldiers on the front pride, the motivation to do what they do. To know they're being taken care of."

SGT Planko’s job, human resources in a combat zone. With his rifle next to him, he made sure soldiers got their awards, medals, and mail. He also kept track of casualties. "We're all so close. Probably one of the scariest things is finding out your unit has lost a soldier."

He worked at a desk, but he still needed combat skills. Fortunately, SGT Planko didn’t have to use them. "Oh heavens, no! I never fired a shot out of my rifle. I was glad I didn't have to do that!"

Where his unit went, he went. SGT Planko slept in close quarters---right next to soldiers that go out on dangerous patrols every day. On down time, he traded food for Iraqi money and military memorabilia. And every night, the last picture he saw, showed the smiling faces of his wife and daughter. "I'm proud I got home alive."

SGT Planko came home in March and is back at work at Fort Carson. And this year, he got to celebrate Shelby's second birthday with her.