U.S. Navy Lt. Commander returns home to family

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by Laura Freeman | Reporter

Hudson -- Three young children received the best present for Christmas they could wish for -- Daddy came home from Afghanistan.

Lindsay Baran and her children, Adelaide, 4, Damien, 2, and Vincent, 11 months, greeted U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Ben Baran on Dec. 20 as he arrived home at the Cleveland airport.

It was the first Christmas they celebrated as a family since moving to Hudson in 2011.

"We've never woke up with just our family on Christmas day, so it was a pretty special Christmas," said Lindsay, who is the daughter of Aurora residents William and Connie Hawke.

On Christmas Eve, the family had dinner and put ornaments on the tree, and on Christmas morning, they opened gifts before heading to Mass, Lindsay said. The rest of the day was spent with the extended family.

"It's great to be back home and be with my family," Ben said. "The most important thing in my mind, is this wasn't just my deployment, it was a major event for my wife and family."

He describes Lindsay as a "superwoman" for dealing with the children and all the decisions without him.

Lindsay, a professor at Kent State University in the department of finance in the college of business, said she found out Ben was leaving for Afghanistan about the same time she learned she was expecting Vincent.

Lindsay said she had a slump in September after Ben had been gone for 10 months and his return still seemed so far away.

"It was like a marathon runner hitting the wall," Lindsay described it. "Ben kept a positive attitude and that was the No. 1 reason I got through it."

SHE ALSO had the support of her family with her parents, a sister and Ben's mom.

"One of the benefits was, it forced me to reach out and meet new people," she said.

Lindsay, who attends St. Mary, said people brought her meals after Vincent's birth and when she returned to work.

Besides talking with Ben weekly on the computer, the children had Daddy dolls.

"We were worried about how they would cope but because they were so young, it was easier," Lindsay said. "Daddy's on the computer, and they would kiss the screen before hanging up. They weren't old enough to question it."

Ben was stationed at Camp Eggers in the Afghanistan city of Kabul since last Thanksgiving. He missed Vincent's birth Jan. 9 but was home for two weeks in July.

Commissioned through Villanova University and Navy ROTC in 2002, Ben was on active duty for more than three years and a reservist for more than 11 years before he was sent to Afghanistan.

Under NATO command, he worked with dozen of other countries' coalitions as a human resource officer dealing with issues relating to manpower, training and education.

Ben, whose civilian job is faculty management at Northern Kentucky University, said it was a better fit as a consultant to the Afghan national police, which is working to achieve 157,000 members.

"Now the focus is on professionalizing the police and a big emphasis on training," Ben said. "We advice them on issues and help them do things."

The main emphasis is to move the Afghans toward building the internal capacity to do the work on their own without help from the coalition forces, he said.

"IT'S TIME to take the training wheels off and let them do things on their own," Ben said.

One of the main obstacles is literacy. Police officers need to read and write, but Afghanistan is the third most illiterate nation for men and the most illiterate for women, he said. The second biggest obstacle is female police training.

"For certain jobs like searching females, it makes sense to have female officers even within an extremely patriarchal society," Ben said. "Our goal was to train new female recruits to be police within the force."

Ben said the Afghan national police is a notable accomplishment, and the people of Afghanistan are better off than they were 10 years ago.

"How they maintain it and move it toward professionalizing it, time will tell," he added.

The tour in Afghanistan was the first time Ben was in the country.

"It gives an American like myself a deep sense of gratitude for all the things we take for granted -- safety and security, electricity and plumbing," Ben said. "It's a developing country that has a long way to go to become modern."

Ben said Afghan has many different regions with different ethnic groups that make it difficult to build a country, but the people are grateful the Taliban is gone.

"I think the hope is in the younger generation," Ben said. "The young people there have a great thirst for education and are trying to change their society from within, but it will take a long time."

Ben will go from active duty to a regular reservist for the Navy Personnel Command in Memphis, but he is attached to the Navy Operational Support Center in Akron.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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