Jason Mullings walked into the Manteca solid waste division offices Thursday afternoon thinking it was going to be a quiet going-away event.
A National Guardsman for the last five years, Mullings – a 2003 Manteca High graduate – just recently received orders for deployment to the Persian Gulf and expected a laid-back cake and ice-cream gathering with his co-workers and his wife.
But while Mullings is typically loud when he walks through the door at work, he was speechless when he saw what his fellow solid waste drivers had put together as a going away present. It was a full-scale barbecue with his parents, wife, son and the guys that he spends his days with.
City Manager Karen McLaughlin was there to thank him for his service. Manteca’s Director of Administrative Services Joe Kriskovich did the same.
It was partly overwhelming but at the same time reassuring for the patriotic Mullings who felt the need to answer the call to service following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2011. Living in the community that honors America and those that defend it, he said, makes him proud.
“It’s good to know that you live in a place where they’re proud of you for what it is that you do and they back you – it’s not like it was when guys came back from Vietnam,” he said. “You don’t find that very many places.”
The hardest thing, he said, will be leaving his family behind when he ships out. His wife Shaylee will take care of their 7-year-old daughter Melissa and their 4-year-old son Logan.
But the support that he’s received from the people he works with – from division supervisor Rexie LeStrange on down – has helped him as he prepares mentally for moving from a quiet community into a war zone.
“Everybody here is so patriotic and they’re all so supportive of my service and they’ve been there whenever I’ve needed them,” he said. “It’s a great place to work for.”
Just this last week he’s been making sure that all of his ducks are in a row – that all of his paperwork is taken care of so that no matter what happens to him, his family will be taken care of.
And even though the Army has shown him how to get all of his affairs in order, some of his co-workers have also stepped up and answered the call – circulating a phone list that they gave to his wife so that she has people that she can call and lean-on during the time that he’s away.
“Jason is doing this for all of the right reasons – he’s fighting for his family, his friends and his freedom,” said solid waste supervisor LeStrange. “He’s part of our family and we wish him the best of luck and support him in all of his endeavors.
“We’ve got that list of phone numbers that we turned over to Shaylee so that if she needs anything, all she has to do is call. It gives him one last thing that he has to worry about – we’ll all be here for his family because he’s part of our family.”