When Leif returned to Fort Drum, New York from Bosnia, he and Nikko experienced the problems many young couples face after months of separation, and they weren't happy together, despite still loving one another. They still had financial problems, too, and Leif was not at all happy with things in his unit and was depressed. Both of those issues impacted their relationship, too.
Two bright spots during the summer of 2000 were Leif's selection for training as the Unit Armorer and his achievements during the expert infantryman training. We have no photos of him during this period at Fort Drum, but I found these two certificates in his belongings after his death . . . more that he had never shown to us. They read:
2d "Commando" Brigade
Certificate of Achievement
is Presented to
SPC Leif Garretson
In recognition of exceptional service during the 2nd "Commando" Brigade's Expert Infantryman Bad (EIB) Testing from 1 September to 22 September 2000. Your technical experience, professionalism, and dedication contributed greatly to the "Commando" Brigade's FY2000 EIB Test. This reflects great credit upon yourself, the 2nd "Commando" Bridage, the 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Army.
Given this 22nd Day of September 2000
Department of the Army
Certificate of Training
This is to certify that
SPC Leif A. Garretson
C Co., 2nd - 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division (LI)
has successfully completed
Unit Armorer Certification Course 00-11
80 Course Hours
Given at Fort Drum, N.Y.
19-30 June 2000
Leif was very proud of both of these, for although he didn't show us the certificates, he did talk about the training. The Unit Armorer course made him a specialist in all of the kinds of armaments available to the unit, and he demonstrated them, trained others in their use, and was called upon to demonstrate and explain new weapons to brigade officers. The skills he learned he also later used heavily in his role with the developers of the ZAON game.
I know Leif was very proud of his infantry skills, but I don't know whether he actually earned the EIB. It looks very familiar to me, but I don't think we found it among his military insignia, and I have a vague memory of him telling me about the testing. It is a distinguished honor that only a small percentage achieve. If he was "on profile" for his asthma and unable to carry the requisite heavy pack and run with it, that would have prevented him getting it. I wish I knew the story and whether he got the badge or not, but I can't remember.
So many things I can't remember. We always thought we had the time to go back to him and find out the details. Now we never will.