Marine makes family proud

Published 4:21 pm Friday, January 13, 2012

Brothers (from left) Justin, Aron, Jeremy and Eric Helfinstine don their Marines garb before Jeremy left for Afghanistan in December.

While many people were preparing for Christmas at home in December, Cpl. Jeremy Helfinstine of the United States Marine Corps was saying goodbye to his family and friends in Clanton.

Jeremy was deployed to Delaram, Afghanistan on Dec. 23, 2011, for an indefinite tour of duty.

Jeremy Helfinstine was deployed to Afghanistan on Dec. 23, 2011, for at least 15 months.

“Right now, it’s set for 15 months,” said Eric Helfinstine, one of Jeremy’s brothers. “He has no leaves in that time.”

Jeremy, 22, is the youngest of Wally and Debbie Helfinstine’s four sons. Aron, 29, Eric, 27, and Justin, 24, all live in Clanton now.

The family owns and operates 7 Place Café, which they opened on Nov. 2, 2010, in downtown Clanton.

Usually, they communicate with Jeremy via Facebook or Skype, a computer software application that streams through the Internet and allows users to speak to and see each other simultaneously.

“It helped me the most to see that he was in good spirits,” Debbie said. “It helped me cope to see he was smiling.”

The Helfinstines also got to see a recorded greeting from Jeremy on a local news station during the holidays.

They said Jeremy’s clip was one of the only clips chosen from hundreds to air on TV.

“With him, everything is good,” Eric said. “He said right now, he is having the best time he’s ever had in the Marine Corps.”

Jeremy has served in the U.S. Marines for almost three years and ascended the ranks to corporal one year and two months before he was eligible for the prestigious title.

“His sergeants were just blown away,” Eric said. “He aced it. He’s very proud of that.”

Eric Helfinstine, executive chef, stands with his mother and pastry chef, Debbie, in their family owned and operated restaurant, 7 Place Café.

Aron said he and his family were initially shocked when Jeremy announced that he had joined the Marines, but his diligence and dedication to serving his country were no surprise.

“He is definitely over there fighting for us, fighting for his family,” Aron said. “He wanted to be above the norm, (wanted) something that was his own, and he’s owned it.”

The Helfinstines have a family history of military involvement that dates back to the 1700s, in the early days of the American Revolution, under Gen. George Washington’s leadership.

Before Jeremy deployed, Aron said he began researching and compiling their family’s roots, highlighting ancestors who were military officers or played a significant role in American history.

“It’s something we wanted him to know before he left,” Aron said. “Something for him to really hold his head up high and carry that tradition. Something to be proud of.”

As the Helfinstines count down the days until Jeremy comes home, they make it clear that the sixth member of their close-knit family—the young corporal who actively chose to serve overseas—is never far from their thoughts.

“We’re just brothers that have become men,” Aron said. “We all do our own thing, all support each other, (and) we’re all going to make sure each one of us succeed, individually but together.”