Brashinger: Mokena soldier dedicated to military career
Ginger Brashinger Citizen Journalistemail@example.com July 11, 2013 1:04PM
PFC Army E3 Joseph Manos and his wife Brittany (Schaaf) Manos arrive at the VFW William Martin Post 725 in Mokena for a welcome home party for Manos who returned from a tour in Afghanistan. | Ginger Brashinger for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 15, 2013 6:06AM
If Army Pfc. Joseph Manos, 20, of Mokena, is any indication of how his generation will take care of our country, Americans can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Manos, an infantry soldier for the last 18 months, recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He will tell you that he’s learned quite a bit about other cultures in the short time he’s been in the Army and a lot about being a soldier.
He intends to pursue a military career because he believes in America and wants to help defend and preserve its democracy and perhaps help other nations achieve it.
Manos made that decision years ago. He can’t remember exactly when but said he knew military service was for him from the time he was very young.
“I’ve always had my eyes on the Army,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Every job has a moment of regret, but all around, I love what I do.”
Ann Marie Manos, Joe’s mom, said she was not surprised when her son told her he was going into the service after his 2011 graduation from Lincoln-Way East High School.
“He had talked to me about it all along,” Ann Marie said, adding that Joe’s father, David Manos, an Air Force veteran, was not as happy about the decision, probably because of the war in Afghanistan.
But Joe Manos had made up his mind. He wanted to be part of something bigger than himself.
“I’m a team player, really. I’ve always been in athletics,” he said. “The United States is just one team. We’re on the same side. We all should support each other when it comes to a global kind of thing.”
Those who know him said he’s a persistent guy when he wants something.
His new bride, Brittany (Schaaf) Manos, 20, learned about her husband’s persistence at an early age. Even though she didn’t talk to Manos when they first met as seventh-graders at Mokena Junior High because she was “so shy,” Manos quietly pursued a friendship with her, she said.
They got to know each other better in watching their brothers play baseball during their sophomore and junior years at Lincoln-Way East, and began “hanging out” during their senior year, they said. Since graduation, they’ve been a couple.
Their relationship, which developed during Joe’s 36-hour Army passes, a summer together in 2012 and Skype and Facebook when Manos was in Afghanistan was a serious one, Brittany said, but she had no idea that Joe would prove to be as decisive about love as he was about “war.”
When Joe returned May 27 from Afghanistan, he proposed in the hangar “right off the deployment plane,” Brittany said.
“I knew that we would get married, but I had no idea that he would propose when he did or that we would get married as fast as we did, but that was the best thing,” she said.
Perhaps as American as “Mom and apple pie,” the marriage was another traditional step right out of a World War II movie.
And just as so often happened in World War II, the soldier was welcomed home. Friends, family, the Soldiers Guardian Angels, the Warriors’ Watch Riders, veterans and well-wishers at the William Martin VFW Post 725 in Mokena joined in a celebration of Joe’s service and safe return.
He was appreciative of the warm welcome and ended his short speech with strong and hopeful words, the kind that make each generation a great American generation.
“I love what I do, and I can’t think of anything better than to give back what I was given for 18 years,” Joe said.
Expanding later on that thought, he said, “Every American-born child is given the Bill of Rights, the amendments, the freedom of speech, the freedom to wear what they want, say what they want, to do anything they want. In a Third World country, not many people can do that, and I was given that kind of freedom. I thought I’d give it back.”