Capt. James Gasapo: home for the holidays

Though the third generation in his family to serve in the United States military, Capt. James Gasapo said it was not a family tradition that led him to join the Army.

"It was something I always wanted to do," Gasapo said of his decision to enlist.

His grandfather, Michael Gasapo of Solvay, served in the Army in World War II, his father Michael, of Onondaga Hill, served 20 years in the Marine Corps, and his mother Sara was a Navy nurse for three years. James traveled around the country and the world as the son of a career military man, and when he graduated in 2001 from Bishop Ludden, he joined the Syracuse University ROTC program.

At SU, he studied political science and Middle Eastern studies.

"I read the tea leaves and saw that I was probably going to go there," he said.

Gasapo returned home just after Thanksgiving from his second tour in Iraq, a 14-month endeavour that was a sharp contrast from his first tour, he said.

In his first tour, Gasapo spent 10 months in Takrit as the platoon leader of a military police platoon performing security escort missions. Upon his return in September 2007, he served as staff officer in Southwest Baghdad, primarily responsible for establishing training standards for the Iraqi police force.

"I think the situation has improved phenomenally, I really do," Gasapo said. "I really do see a difference now compared to my first tour. I really think things are on the right track now."

The growth of the Iraqi police from 400 to 1,500 officers and the quality of the police are improvements Gasapo is quick to point out and share credit for with fellow soldiers.

His family, though, helped balance his modesty - both his father and grandfather proudly mentioned Gasapo's being awarded two bronze stars in his short military career.

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