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Altman: Tampa twins connect during Afghanistan deployment

Published:   |   Updated: March 31, 2013 at 03:19 PM

Given the nature of my beat, I often deal with the worst that can happen.

So it’s nice to be able to relate some good news.

Like the story of the Pagan sisters, Army specialists.

Fraternal twins from Tampa, Janice and Janet, 30, are both deployed to Afghanistan, but they hadn’t seen each other in two years even though they were stationed only about an hour flight away.

Until St. Patrick’s Day.

Janice, an automated logistical specialist with 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne, got a three-day pass to see Janet, a unit supply specialist assigned to the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion at Bagram Air Field.

The twins, 2000 graduates of Chamberlain High School, “do everything together,” said Janet. They both worked at the same eye clinic in Tampa and they both enlisted within a month of each other, said their father, Hector Pagan.

“I was so excited when I heard the news,” Janet told the 101st Airborne’s press office. “Even my command is excited and happy for me to be able to see my sister.”

Back home in Tampa, parents Hector and Norma Pagan are happy too.

“It was a very nice thing,” said Hector Pagan, 59, a Subaru technician.

The emergency room at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital has a new name.

Last week, the hospital, one of the nation’s busiest, named the emergency room after Chester V. Kokseng, a doctor who once ran the emergency department.

Kokseng, 63, died June 22. He was remembered as a rare physician-administrator.

He “was potentially the only physician in the history of this hospital who would have seen a patient in the Internal Medicine clinic, identified that he needed to go to the emergency room during that clinic visit for further attention, then take off that hat and put on his head of the Emergency Department hat and see the patient again and stabilize him in the ER and admit him to the [Medical Intensive Care Unit], and then take off that hat and put his critical care hat on and manage the patient in the [Intensive Care Unit] as the ICU attending physician,” said Joe Lezama, the hospital’s chief of medical services. “He was an amazing physician who had so many talents that he put to use in the ambulatory care clinic, emergency room, and the ICU.”

The men and women of the National Guard and Reserves depend on their civilian employers to hold down their jobs while serving their country.

Satisfying their obligation one weekend a month, two weeks a year and more if activated, they rely on employers to abide by the law protecting them.

Some employers are better than others.

To that end, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense operational committee, announced companies nominated for the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

There were 21 companies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties nominated by Guard and Reserve members, according to the organization.

The Freedom Award is the Defense Department’s highest recognition for employers supporting employees serving in the Guard and Reserve, according to the organization. Up to 15 award recipients will be announced this summer and honored in Washington, D.C. later this year at the 18th annual Freedom Award ceremony.

Here are the local nominees:

Knight Enterprises, Clearwater; Social Security Administration, Clearwater; City Of Oldsmar; Hillsborough School District; General Dynamics - Ordnance & Tactical Systems, St. Petersburg; Dr. William N Handelman, Bay Area Medical, St. Petersburg; Raytheon St. Petersburg; St. Petersburg Fire Rescue; St. Petersburg Police Dept.; UDR, St. Petersburg; AC4S, Inc., Tampa; Bank of America, Tampa; Citi Group, Tampa; Florida Department Of Corrections, Tampa; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office; Qualified Systems Contracting, Inc., Tampa; St Joseph Children Hospital, Tampa; Tampa General Hospital; Tampa Police Department; Troy University, Tampa.

The Pentagon announced the deaths of three soldiers last week.

Sgt. Michael C. Cable, 26, of Philpot, Ky., died March 27, from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces in Shinwar District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Cable was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Sgt. Tristan M. Wade, 23, of Indianapolis, Ind., died March 22 in Qarah Bagh District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 573rd Clearance Company, 2nd Engineer Battalion, White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Sgt. 1st Class James F. Grissom, 31, of Hayward, Calif., died March 21 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, of wounds suffered from small arms fire March 18 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

There have now been 2,177 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.

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