Iraq War vet reads to his son's classmates

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By Jesef Williams

The book Jeff Catoe read for first-graders at Brooklyn Springs Elementary School fit his son's situation so well, you might think the book was written about him.

Catoe, a sergeant major with the U.S. Army who's done two tours of duty in Iraq, visited the school Friday to talk about how families are affected by military deployment.

His wife, Casey, is a teacher at the school and his youngest son, Jacob, is a student there.

Catoe read "The Impossible Patriotism Project," a book about a student who was assigned to design a project that symbolizes patriotism. Coincidentally, the student in the book is named Jacob.

The character Jacob made his father the focus of the project, which was to be displayed at the school's family night event. But Jacob was sad that his father couldn't attend because he was serving in the military overseas.

During Friday's visit, Catoe told students what it's like to be away from your family for a long time. He said he worried about his wife and children's safety all the time.

He said the cards and letters of encouragement that he and other solders receive are greatly appreciated.

Catoe, a Lancaster native, was first stationed in Iraq in 2004 and again in 2006. During his first tour, he managed main supply routes. The last time, he helped maintain the Iraqi security force near Baghdad.

Catoe, who has been home since last October, said Friday's visit to Brooklyn Springs Elementary was another way for him to get back involved in his family's life.

"I lost two and a half years of their life and now I'm taking all the opportunities I can," said Catoe, who also has two older sons, Joshua and Jonathan.

Jacob, 7, said he can relate to his namesake's situation in "The Impossible Patriotism Project." He's glad his dad is around now to play games, especially football and golf.

Casey Catoe said having a husband overseas put a huge burden on her, as her sons had to look to her for everything.

"He wasn't here for programs and stuff, but my children understand that their daddy made a sacrifice for somebody else," she said.

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com