Copper County veterans who served together now work together

Photo courtesy: Scott Cleary. Two Copper Country veterans who served in the Middle East are now working together at the Houghton County Department of Human Services.

HOUGHTON — When members of the U.S. military come home, they usually don’t get a chance to stay close with the people they served with.  But the relationship of two soldiers from the Copper Country has carried over to their current workplace, ten years and 6,000 miles later.

Ten years ago, Scott Cleary and Matt Turunen were deployed to the Middle East, working side by side during Operation: Iraqi Freedom.  Ten years later, they work just a few feet away from each other at the Houghton County Department of Human Services.  But the journey to their cubicles was a long one with many different stops.  After they came back to U.P. in 2006, they were deployed again a few years later.

“I deployed with Ishpeming armory in 2007 for a year.  And Matt redeployed again in 2009 with Baraga and Calumet unit.  We both went overseas.  He went to Afghanistan and I went to Iraq.  Both doing the same type of missions over there…road clearance.  And then Matt got out of the guard and then I stayed in and I retired out in 2012,” Cleary said.

While in Iraq, Turunen was able to meet up with his brother, who was also serving at the time but was far away from his base.  Cleary was able to pull some strings to make their meeting happen, so when Turunen heard a position was open at his office, he contacted Cleary immediately.

“I had no idea what his employment plans in life were, but I just told him about the position and he applied for it and ended up getting it so obviously I was excited because I get to work with a good friend again,” said Turunen.

And now, not only do they work in the same office, but they are office buddies, too.  And on this special day, they are honored to still be side by side.

“We’re just thankful for what people are doing for our country right now, not only in the United States to prevent terrorist attacks here in our homeland, but also overseas,” Cleary said.

“Veteran’s Day to me is basically a day to thank a lot of hard-working men and women that have done a lot for the country that they should feel proud of,” said Turunen.

And the Copper Country is proud of the work they do, whether it is serving the country overseas, or serving the people of Houghton County in their office.