By Tony Parra
Like other Americans, the Isaacs family watched the news on television when the war with Iraq broke out. They’ve also lived it, as all three of their boys were sent to serve the United States in the invasion of Iraq.
When Corey, Toby and Eric Isaacs do come home, they will be greeted with an American flag for each of them on a flag pole and one American flag three times larger than the others. The Isaacs put up the flags in November of 2003 to signify each of their sons and another for their love for their country. The flags make the Isaacs home stand out just off of Highway 267 leading to Floyd, just as the family’s dedication to its country and to each other make it stand out.
Faith in God, faith in families
“We’ve always been a real faithful family,” Toby Isaacs said in a phone conversation Wednesday night. “We’ve been raised around church.”
Galen and Barbara Isaacs raised their four children — their three sons and daughter, Jennifer — to have faith in God and in America. Every Sunday for the past six years, Galen Isaacs has made the journey to Kenna, approximately 33 miles southwest of Portales, to serve as a pastor for the Kenna Community Church.
It’s that faith that has helped the Isaacs survive, and rationalize a “thanks, but no thanks” when state senator Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) offered to bring one home.
Stuart Ingle asked him if he wanted one of the three boys out of Iraq during a chance encounter.
“He was surprised and had a puzzled look on his face when I told him all three of them were in Iraq,” Galen said. “He told me that wasn’t supposed to be. He asked if I wanted one of them out of Iraq.”
Barbara said they approached the boys about the idea. Each of them had a solution to the proposition.
“When we talked to Toby, he told us to choose Corey because he has a wife and kid,” Barbara said. “When we talked to Eric, he told us to choose Corey because he has a wife and kid. When we talked to Corey, he told us to choose Eric because he’s the youngest.”
Galen said another reason the boys didn’t want to leave Iraq was because of the other troops in their infantry — he said they didn’t want to leave the makeshift families they had created during service.
Different paths, same end
Corey Isaacs, 27, who graduated from Portales High School in 1995, has served in the military for nine years. Galen said Corey, the oldest Isaacs boy, looked at the possibility of serving in the Navy or Air Force, but felt the Marines were more interested in him.
“They were honest and straightforward with him,” Barbara said. “We’ve become good friends with the recruits. We go to the (North Plains) mall (in Clovis) and visit with them.”
Toby, 22, was unlike the other two boys. Corey and Eric wanted to enter the army when they were high school seniors and were in the delayed entry program. Toby, who graduated from PHS in 2001, was not as readily to enter the military after his high school graduation. In fact, Toby worked for six months in plumbing before entering the armed forces in January of 2002.
“He liked working for Denton’s (plumbing in Clovis) but he didn’t feel he was on the right path,” Barbara said. “I asked him, ‘Have you thought about the military?’ He searched it out on his own and we were really surprised when he decided to go into the military.”
Eric, 20, had no doubt in his mind he wanted to join the military after he graduated from PHS in 2000. Barbara said Eric idolized Corey and wanted to join the military immediately. Barbara said Corey graduated from PHS on May 28 and joined the military a week later. During Eric’s graduation, military officials presented the Isaacs an award which read, “Presented to the Isaacs Family for your strong partnership with the U.S. Army. We appreciate what you and your three sons do to contribute to the defense of our nation: Eric, Toby and Corey.”
“On pins and needles”
Barbara said during the invasion, Corey and Eric were in Baghdad while Toby was north of Baghdad.
“Eric and Toby were 50 miles apart, but they never got to see each other,” Barbara said. “We (Galen and Barbara) were on pins and needles during the main invasion. We had the television on 24-7. The television wasn’t off for the first two months. We wanted every piece of information.”
Barbara said she was worried about Toby because she didn’t hear from him for the first three weeks of the invasion. Galen said men from his church came to him when they found out all three of the Isaacs boys were in Iraq. He said the men and Galen read Chapter 140 from The Book of Psalms one morning. Galen said the reading provided some relief to him and put him a little more at ease.
When the congregation isn’t around, Galen and Barbara try to cope by saving every memory. The couple keeps a three-ring binder with all of the boy’s postcards, printed e-mails and photos. The three-ring binder is divided into three sections for each of the boys.
Galen joked there is so much correspondence that he’s eventually going to need a binder for each of the boys.
Waiting for a reunion
The three are no longer in Iraq — Eric and Corey are stationed in Germany, while Toby is stationed elsewhere in the United States. Soon, all three should be in Portales.
Galen said they expect Corey around Dec. 17 for Christmas, Eric some time before Christmas and Toby around Dec. 19. According to Galen, it will be the first time the family will spend Christmas together since 2000.
“I look forward to seeing them (family members) for Christmas,” Toby said. “Last time I saw them (Galen and Barbara) was in April, when I came back from Iraq.”
Galen said they haven’t seen Corey for two-and-a-half years.
“I told Corey when I see him, I’m going to give him a bunch of hugs and kisses,” Barbara said with a smile. “I can’t wait for the day when my three boys come home safely to us.”