Upper Freehold official called to service in Iraq


Staff Writer

Stephen Alexander Stephen Alexander An Upper Freehold Township municipal official will answer a different call of duty this month. Maj. Stephen Alexander will report to Baghdad, Iraq, during the first week of March.

Alexander, 40, a township committeeman in the western Monmouth County community, is an Air Force reservist with the 108th Air Refueling Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, based at McGuire Air Force Base, Wrightstown. His tour in Baghdad is expected to last four to six months.

In Iraq, Alexander will have judge advocate general (JAG) duty, which he said most likely means he will work with detainees.

Alexander, who was elected to the Upper Freehold Township Committee in 2003, is a senior trial attorney with Frey, Petrakis, Deeb, Blum, Briggs and Mitts, Philadelphia. He joined the Air Force after graduating from law school and served eight years of active duty.

Alexander, who has been in the Reserve for four years, learned in January that he would be called to duty. While he could have refused to go, Alexander said, “When people are asked to step up to the plate, they either do or they don’t.”

He said he and his wife, Linda, who is also an attorney and a reservist, agreed that it is time for him to do his duty.

While uprooting himself from his family and career in midlife is not easy, Alexander said he is not the first husband and father to be called to serve, and he certainly will not be the last.

The couple has a daughter, Analise, 7. She has been told her daddy is going away for military duty, according to Alexander, but that he will be back to swim with her in the summer.

Linda Alexander said she was not fazed when her husband told her he had been called to serve in Iraq. The two met while serving in the military, and she said she is used to the commitments that take them away from each other.

“I know what his obligation is,” she said.

While some of the couple’s friends and neighbors have become very emotional over the family’s news, Alexander said military people look at the situation more as a job to do rather than as a dangerous situation.

Alexander said his commander at McGuire, Lt. Col. Ron Turk, and his second in command, Capt. Brian Griefer, took him out recently to make sure he is proficient in 9 mm and the long-rifle M4 weaponry. He said they gave him a 35-pound body armor with steel plates.

Alexander said the M4 rifle is used while getting out of cars and buildings, and that the body armor can stop a rifle bullet.

While he will not be in combat during his duty, he said, he may have to travel in convoys.

Alexander said he hopes residents are proud rather than disappointed that he has to take a leave of absence from the Township Committee.

He does not want his departure to inconvenience township business, he said. According to Alexander, one of the first people he contacted after learning of his call to duty was Township Attorney Granville Magee.

“It’s an unusual position to be in,” Alexander said, adding that he always knew it could happen. “I want to fulfill my obligation to the Township Committee while I’m gone to the extent that I can do it.”

He said the people he has told about his deployment have been very supportive.

Alexander has not yet decided whether he will run for a second term and has until April 14 to make that decision.

Alexander said he hopes township residents want him to run again. He also said he hopes residents will not look negatively upon his military service and the fact that he will be gone for several months.

Deputy Mayor William Miscoski said the Township Committee will continue to function effectively and efficiently in Alexander’s absence.

Having served in Vietnam, Miscoski said his heart goes out to Alexander.

“Going to a war zone is never an easy thing,” Miscoski said. “I will personally pray for his safe return.”

Mayor Stephen Fleischacker said the Township Committee and administration look forward to Alexander’s safe return as quickly as possible.

Fleischacker said there will be no interruption in the governing body’s service and effort, but added, “Of course, [Alexander’s] empty chair will be a constant reminder of where he is and what he will be doing until he returns safely to his family and our community.”