IBEW Local 673 supports member deployed to Afghanistan
IBEW Local 673 member John Rusnak, an Army Reservist, poses with his family before his latest deployment to the Middle East. Rusnak is thankful that his union has his back as he goes overseas again. Smiling alongside is his wife, Christine, and joining them are daughters Emma and Sarah. Ohio Labor Citizen photo via PAI Photo Service.

MENTOR, Ohio (PAI) — Master Sergeant John Rusnak has been in this position before. The Petroleum Laboratory Specialist in the Army Reserve’s 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command is headed overseas again.

Rusnak, a member of Mentor, Ohio-based Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 673 is one of many thousands of unionists – Fire Fighters, Electrical Workers, building trades members and more – who also serve in the military reserve units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

And his story is typical, both concerning his multiple deployments – which take a toll on both veterans and their families – and their support from their unions.

Rusnak began his third deployment just a few weeks ago, with a two-month training period at Fort Hood, Texas. When training is completed, he will depart to Afghanistan for a 10-month assignment. It will be his job to supervise the certified fuel labs for all of the military in the region where he will be stationed.

While any deployment generates a great deal of stress, Rusnak has the comfort of knowing both he and his family have the support of his brothers and sisters from Local 673.

The Journeyman Wireman was astounded by that backing. This included a large turnout of IBEW 673 members and retirees who came to a going-away party. “If I could, I’d send individual thank-yous for all the support I’ve received,” he said. “It’s incredible – all the face- book messages, texts, phone calls and going-away parties. It helps us cope with the situation.”

At the recent Local 673 clambake and golf outing, members wanted to donate the local’s half of the 50-50 drawing to Rusnak. Then, the winner of the drawing donated his half as well.

Rusnak initially turned down the offer, but was convinced to accept the gracious monetary gift. The money will help Rusnak and his wife pay for their driveway to be plowed in the winter and grass to be cut in the spring and summer. Rusnak would usually handle both.

The acts of kindness show the true camaraderie so commonly found in unions —something for which Rusnak said he will always be grateful.

While Rusnak and his wife Christine have been through a previous deployment, this is the first time the couple’s two children – Emma, 4, and Sarah, 15 months – will be without their father for an extended period of time.

“I told Emma, ‘Daddy’s going on a trip and will be gone a while,’” he said. “For work, I usually take trips of three to five days. I don’t think it’ll sink in for her until about a week or 10 days after I’m gone.”

While attending numerous Local 673 functions with her husband, Christine met many of Rusnak’s friends, and she knows that if something happens around the house, she has a support system to turn to for help solving whatever issue may arise.

During his last deployment in 2010, the members of Local 673 asked Rusnak to create a list of items he might want to receive. Members ended up sending so many care packages Rusnak was able to give some to fellow troops who did not have such a caring and generous support system.

He also knows that once he heads overseas, he will find himself in a similar, supportive environment with his fellow service members.

“When my fellow union brothers are struggling, you see numerous guys reaching out and helping out,” said Rusnak. “In the service, it’s the same way – they’ve got your back.”

Matt Jaworski is a writer at Labor Citizen.


Matt Jaworski
Matt Jaworski

Matt Jaworski is a writer for Labor Citizen, a monthly newspaper published by the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council.