Chino coach heading to Afghanistan
CHINO VALLEY Huddled near mid-court with his wife, Jean, and youngest daughter, Baylee, by his side, Sergeant William Lake soaked in some well-deserved applause from the fans seated in the Chino Valley High School gymnasium Friday night.
Lake, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, CVHS health teacher and beloved coach of the Cougars freshman boys' basketball team, mentored his final game Friday before heading off early next year to serve in Afghanistan one of the hot spots in America's war on terrorism.
Choking back tears in the moments leading up to the Cougars' varsity contest, Lake's 18-year-old daughter C.J. gave a touching speech about her father's heroism.
Dressed in military fatigues with a black beret on his close-shaved head, Lake graciously waved to the boisterous crowd and blew C.J. a kiss in appreciation of her gratitude. C.J. presented her dad with an autographed basketball with signatures from those affiliated with the Cougars' hoops program.
"My dad is my hero," said C.J., a senior, of Lake, who dropped out of high school to enter the military but later completed his education. "He's been the reason why I've been wanting to go through high school and get into college and go on. ŠWe hope that he comes home safe."
Students, athletes, parents and fellow coaches at Chino Valley High School, among others, hugged and shook hands with the upbeat Lake before, during and after the brief ceremony.
"Everybody in the school is close to Coach Lake," said Josh Moore, a 15-year-old freshman on Lake's squad. "Nobody wants him to leave."
Lake will spend one more week teaching and coaching at the school in advance of his deployment.
"It's a really scary feeling and very frightening because I've been through it with him once before with Desert Storm," said Jean, Lake's wife of 21 years who was born and raised on a military post, of her husband's imminent departure. "This time it seems harder. We just hope he comes home safe and in one piece."
On Jan. 3, Lake, 41, will travel with his infantry unit to the Army base in Fort Bragg, N.C., where he will spend three months training in preparation for his March deployment to Afghanistan. Lake's group will run security in support of the 82nd Airborne.
"The people in Afghanistan are working with the Americans," said Lake, who will keep in touch with his family through letters and videos. "They want to help the Americans rebuild."
Lake, a veteran of the Gulf War and Desert Storm in Iraq, got a phone call from the National Guard in late October notifying him of his assignment. Although originally a member of a unit in Flagstaff, Lake was assigned to head out with the 158th Infantry in Phoenix.
Lake, who has served in the military off an on for 23 years, said he wants to continue
doing this for the "duty" he
feels to the country even though he will dearly miss his family, students and
The United States' battle against terror has affected Lake's 20-year-old daughter Jean-Marie, who's expecting her first child in May, as well. Jean-Marie's husband leaves for Iraq at about the same time Lake departs in January.
"Right now, it's really tough on my family," said Lake, who leaves behind his wife and three daughters for about a year and a half while on his tour. "But I'm excited. I'm ready to go."
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