LA GRANGE – After a brief meeting during training last year, two U.S. Navy Marines from the La Grange area ran into each other again while serving in Afghanistan this past February.
Elizabeth Vanessa Stack, 29, of La Grange Highlands and Kristopher Krysa, 27, of La Grange Park both attended Lyons Township High School and are now serving their country together overseas.
Although the two don’t work in the same department – Stack is a surgical technician with a mobile Forward Resuscitating Surgical Team, and Krysa is a medical advisor for the Afghanistan National Army – both Stack and Krysa said the main goal is to bring troops back to the states.
“My main job is to make sure all of my Marines come home safe and healthy,” said Krysa, who has been in the Navy for four years.
Stack, in her ninth year with the Navy, said her team performs small minor medical procedures on a daily basis.
“Every day is a challenge to keep us all safe and continue on with sending more and more personnel, equipment and supplies home,” Stack said.
Suburban Life reporter Kristin Pedicini interviewed Krysa and Stack recently on the rare occasion of meeting a fellow La Grange resident in a distant country.
Pedicini: How has running into each other changed your relationship?
Krysa: It’s awesome to know that someone else knows my hometown and makes the Navy seem more like a family than anything else. It makes me more proud of where I came from.
Stack: When I first met Krysa I was shocked to ever meet another person from LT. The Navy is very large, but at the same time, can be very small. I definitely thought that running into him was a very rare occasion. I helped medically train him to go on his deployment in Afghanistan. When we ran into each other again on [Camp] Leatherneck [in Afghanistan], I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would see him again, because our missions were so different. Our run-in with each other was really short. … So this time, we actually got to chat and share with each other our deployment experience so far, talk about home and other things. Krysa is a great person and is a good friend. We will definitely keep in touch for the rest of the duration of this deployment.
Pedicini: How did it feel to find another local La Grange member during last year’s training?
Krysa:It was crazy to be able to talk about hometown life and culture. No one understands the Chicago suburban life and what it’s like to grow up there. It makes you appreciate all the opportunities that were made available in our hometown.
Pedicini: What was it like to see each other again on Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan?
Krysa:It was shocking, I didn’t expect to run into so many people I’ve met in my career here and then someone who I met months ago from my hometown.
Stack: I thought seeing each other was really cool. Truthfully, I was really excited to see him again because he is someone from back home, and that is always a good feeling in the military.
Pedicini: How does it feel to be serving with someone from your hometown?
Krysa: It’s a pride thing, knowing someone else is here representing where we came from and what it means to be from Chicago suburbs.
Stack:Although we didn’t know each other, we could immediately relate. Everyone misses their family and friends. To me, seeing someone from back home brings a lot of contentment to my heart. We have something in common. Things other people can’t talk about, like remembering our coaches, the way La Grange looked when we were younger and how it looks now when we go back home, and talking about the people we know.
Pedicini: What has this experience meant to you?
Krysa: It has been eye opening to see another culture and get to know some Afghans for who they really are. A lot of military personnel have had bad experiences with them, but I have had a great time. I feel like I have made friends for life with them, and I will miss them when I’m gone. They have a long, hard road ahead, and I wish the best for them; they are genuinely kind people and fight for the same things we do.
Stack: Not many people from LT join the military. I have always thought, due to the area, that most people there would not serve. I realized that there are others from the La Grange area and surrounding suburbs that are serving proudly. In the Marines, we call each other brothers and sisters. I am proud to say that I am serving with a brother of mine, in the Navy/Marine Corps, from LT. We are all a family, literally down to the very roots of where we grew up, who share many things.
Pedicini: Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences?
Krysa: I want to make sure people don’t forget that there are Americans still fighting here and we haven’t left yet. People think the war is over back in the states and everyone is coming home, but it’s not entirely true. There are still Marines, soldiers and sailors getting wounded and losing their lives here, and they are not living any easier than they were 12 years ago.