FREMONT -- Making major personal sacrifices for the good of the country is the reality of a soldier's life, but it does add a wrinkle to a political life in an election year. Just ask Garrett Yee, a Fremont resident and Army Reserve brigadier general, who soon will be sent overseas for the third time since his election to the Ohlone College's Board of Trustees in 2002.

"It's a sacrifice, but it's also an honor," he said. "To be able to go there as a general leading troops in a time of war is the epitome of why we serve."

Yee's imminent departure comes at an awkward time for him and the Fremont community college. Its seven-member board is in the midst of finding a replacement for Kevin Bristow, who resigned from Ohlone's board two weeks ago to take a job at UC Merced.

Yee and other college leaders shrug off concerns about that, saying the remaining board members are plenty experienced and can fill the leadership void until Yee returns in mid-2015.

His 12-month tour of duty begins in late May, when he'll join the 335th Signal Command in Kuwait. There, he'll lead 2,500 people and oversee military communications systems and Internet technology in Afghanistan, Qatar, Bahrain and other nations in the region.

Yee, 48, served in Iraq in 2006 and in Afghanistan in 2011. Each deployment disrupted his family life with wife Maria and their three children, his service on Ohlone's board and his 25-year career at a San Francisco statistical data company serving the insurance industry.


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But Yee's not complaining.

"This is why we prepare so much -- so when we soldiers are called to duty, we can go and serve," he said. "That's personally meaningful to me because all my years of training now are being put to use."

While overseas he will keep one eye on this November's Ohlone board election, when his four-year term is set to expire. Though he will be living nearly 7,800 miles from the college, he plans to campaign to retain his trustee seat.

To do that, he will grant his wife power of attorney to file his election papers this summer. The plan has worked before: Yee was re-elected in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

He announced his deployment earlier this week, just days after Bristow resigned his post. Yee said he will stay long enough to lead the search for Bristow's replacement.

When Yee leaves in two months, Ohlone leaders said they expect that other board members will keep his seat vacant, as they did during the previous deployments.

"He's been deployed twice before, and the board now is probably in the best shape it's ever been to handle his absence," Ohlone College President Gari Browning said. "We'll miss him, though, because he brings us experience and a unique perspective."

Despite the challenges that come with being sent overseas, Yee said he is happy to serve as a reminder of the military's sacrifices.

"A deployed soldier reminds the community that we're still fighting and that those soldiers still in the thick of things are not forgotten," he said. "There's an important connection between the military and the community that gets reinforced when a local gets deployed."

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.