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FORWARD OPERATING BASE LINDSEY, Afghanistan --"Who told them my nickname was monkey?" Sgt. Alyssa Turner asked as she surveyed her desk, wrapped entirely in saran wrap and barricaded behind a stack of water bottles festooned with a variety of monkey pictures sporting birthday wishes.
Her sister, Staff Sgt. Lorena Anderson, confessed as a group of soldiers gathered at Turner's office to see her reaction to the mischief they had orchestrated while she was out on a mission.
Turner, a paralegal specialist and female engagement team noncommissioned officer in-charge with 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, celebrated her 26th birthday at Forward Operating Base Lindsey Oct. 23. Unlike most deployed soldiers celebrating birthdays downrange, however, Turner got to spend hers with family.
Anderson, Turner's sister who is deployed as a veterinary food inspector with the 438th Medical Detachment based out of Fort Carson, Colo., and stationed at FOB Lagman, used a four-day pass to surprise Turner for her birthday.
Anderson, on her first deployment despite 10 years of active service, said there is nowhere else she would rather spend her liberty pass than with her sister, even though Turner didn't have time off.
At first, Anderson's command wanted her to go to Kandahar Airfield for her pass, suggesting that Turner meet her there, but Turner's unit doesn't give four-day passes. Instead, Anderson convinced her unit to send her to Lindsey where she could spend time with her sister.
"Every night when she's done with work, we'll go to Table Talk [a restaurant on FOB Lindsey] and just hang out," Anderson said.
The sisters, with a military heritage passed to them from both parents, grew up in Augusta, first on the Georgia side and later on the South Carolina side where both, along with another sister, attended Augusta North High School.
Turner recalled watching her older sister play soccer in high school and later playing the same position, when she was old enough.
"She motivates me," Turner said. "Even though we both grew up with Mom and Dad who were both in [the military], when she joined, it kinda' caught me off guard."
Anderson, who said she had always known growing up that she wanted to join the military, laughed saying she thinks her sister is trying to out-do her.
"She's accomplished all the things that I always wanted to accomplish," Anderson said.
Turner, however, insists she is just following in her "big sister's shoes."
"It means a lot to me when she says she's proud of me," Turner said.
Anderson said their mother was not happy at all when she learned that she and Turner would both be deployed to Afghanistan at the same time.
"My mom, her fear of losing one of us is so great," Turner said.
The close-knit family of women has formed a sort of support group for each other during the deployments, with their sister and mother bonding together for support at home and Turner and Anderson supporting one another downrange.
Looking across at her sister, Anderson stated, "I know I can really talk about what's going on. I can unwind, really."
Turner, on her second Afghanistan deployment in less than three years, nodded her head in agreement saying, "It's taking us back to our childhood; when secrets were secrets, and you don't tell anyone.
"Oh my God! I've had some very bad birthdays these past couple of years. It means so much to me to have family here with me."
During the birthday visit, Anderson and Turner were able to FaceTime with their mom and sister back in the U.S.
Turner smiled, "Mom was so happy to have all her girls together."