On a typical Fourth of July, Jessica Finch and her family would have a cookout, take in the fireworks and then gather around a bonfire at her mom’s house in Hollis.

Instead her family will be saluting Finch’s sacrifice as the Army specialist spends Independence Day far from home, in the midst of her tour in Iraq with Task Force Marne.

“I hope they do something for them over there, a good celebration,” said her mother, Pamela Finch.

Jessica Finch, 23 said she and her fellow soldiers will eat well — steaks and brats — but Tikrit is a long way from home.

“It’s totally different,” she said, as desert temperatures topped 105 degrees. “There’s nothing like the state of Maine, not even down in Georgia” where her unit is based.

Finch admits to being a little homesick, and nothing would be better than she and a bunch of friends pitching tents in her mom’s backyard this weekend.

“I know I’m doing a good thing for my country. I’m not too heartbroken,” she said. “But every time I come home I enjoy it more.”

Finch told her story as part of a project by Task Force Marne to have 50 soldiers from 50 states be interviewed in the run-up to July 4. The task force is comprised of 17,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and civilian employees responsible for security in the northern half of Iraq.

Finch is a logistical specialist, deployed to Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, making sure soldiers have everything they need from toilet paper to military vehicles, she said.

Finch graduated from Bonny Eagle High School in 2007.

“When I graduated high school, I was getting in a lot of trouble,” she said. “I felt I needed to make some changes in my life and I felt the military was going to help me.”

Finch wanted to join the service since she was six when she and her eight-year-old brother would spend hours playing army. Also, her uncle and aunt were both career military.

“She’s always just been a tomboy,” her mother said. “She went from Tee Ball, playing catcher, and she’s always been with boys.”

Finch’s brother had his heart set on joining, but developed juvenile diabetes as a 10-year-old and was unable. He now works at a metals fabrication company in Buxton and follows his sister’s career closely.

Finch played soccer, basketball and softball in high school, and also wrestled in middle school and for one year in high school. She didn’t miss a beat when she joined the Army.

Finch said she was one of the top-10 soldiers in her boot camp cycle, and she took up boxing after she joined. Now she is training two fighters and has taken up martial arts, she said.

“I like any kind of physical sport take out my aggression,” she quipped.

Finch’s tour in Iraq ends in November but she’s not headed home to Maine just yet.

This spring, Finch committed to the Army for four more years. She plans to use that time to go back to school and to train in hopes of trying out for the Army boxing team.

Her mother’s still trying to come to grips with Finch’s decision to rejoin. The Iraq tour has taken its toll.

“I worry about her every single day,” her mother said. “She’s assured me she’s on one of the safest bases there.”

Finch says she will miss getting together with her friends this weekend, but she thinks of them often.

“I’ve never forgot about where I came from,” she said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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