Back in 2007, Arsenal America profiled SSgt Jared Dugger while he was starting his second tour of Iraq. Arsenal America followed up with Jared in order to find out more about where he came from, where he is now, and how Arsenal continues to impact his life on a daily basis.
AA: Jared, where are you from? How did you get to where you currently live?
JD: The first is kind of a trick question: I was born in Dalton, Georgia, but my dad joined the Army two weeks after I was born (if that tells you anything!). I got dragged all over the world before we settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I did all my high school there, and after a year of college I dropped out and enlisted in the Marine Corps. I did five years, got out, and then joined the Reserves in June 2001. Soon after that, I volunteered and fought my way back to Camp Lejeune and have been here ever since. I live with my family in Swansboro, NC and can’t see a reason for that to change anytime soon. I’m retiring from active duty on August 31, 2012.
AA: Why did you become an Arsenal supporter?
JD: The short answer is “blind luck”. In 1997, I got orders to Okinawa, Japan. At the time — before the internet really exploded into what it is now — I couldn’t really follow my beloved Colorado Rockies since the Armed Forces Network only carried major sporting events. I became a fan of the Daiei Hawks J-League team, but all the coverage was in Japanese. The first English-language broadcast of interest that I saw was an Arsenal match against Crystal Palace, if memory serves, and I saw Bergkamp and Wright just tearing apart their opponents. I’d played soccer as a kid, so I was very interested to see more, and I began keeping track of results whenever I could get internet access. It all snowballed from there.
AA: What was your first live Arsenal match?
JD: In 2005, I finally got deployed to Ramadi, Iraq for a year’s time. Keep in mind, in the years since I was in Okinawa, I had become totally obsessed with Arsenal. When I found out that I’d be granted two weeks’ R&R to go anywhere in the world I chose, I knew I’d have to go see a match or two during that final season at Highbury. I made all my own arrangements, got tickets, and had the trip locked on about a month or two before discovering that Arsenal America had picked the same two matches (CL vs. Sparta Prague and home vs. Sunderland) for their annual road trip. It was absolutely random chance that I’d be seeing my first Arsenal match in person with so many American supporters – as well as several friendly, amazing English Gooners!
AA: What does the Arsenal family mean to you and how has it supported you?
JD: I’d have never expected that the ArseAm supporters would be so welcoming and friendly. I had an amazing time, and got to see and do things there at Highbury that I’d have never imagined. I guess it impressed some folks that I’d chosen to use my R&R to visit Highbury, because I later wound up being featured in a matchday program and I had what seemed like a limitless supply of Guinness sat before me almost anywhere I went. The friendships started that week endure to this day, too: Terry, a longtime Gooner from England, made a point to record DVDs of matches and send them to me during my second deployment in 2007. If not for that, I’d have never been able to keep track of the squad that year. There are too many to name who I can now contact out of the blue at a moment’s notice and they’d do just about anything for me. It’s pretty overwhelming and, honestly, being an American Gooner is about the strongest bond of friendship or brotherhood that I’ve been a part of outside the Marine Corps. It’s not too often you can call someone you haven’t seen in a few years at 8am on a Saturday morning and ask “WHAT CHANNEL IS THE MATCH ON?!?!?” …but it’s been known to happen. You don’t get that kind of bond with an entire group of people very often!
AA: How does Arsenal continue to influence your life?
JD: I am amazed and thrilled about how coverage has continued to grow and expand here in the US during the past ten years. I’ve also settled down and become a family man in the past three or four years, and I’ve got stepchildren now, aged 14 and 11, who lost their Daddy in Iraq in 2007. Both play soccer and consequently I recently obtained my U.S. coaching license helped guide my fourteen year old Becca’s soccer team through two seasons already. She asks and reminds me every week during the season if Arsenal is playing on the weekend. She is very adamant that Arsenal is “OUR thing”, and every time we watch together she is constantly asking questions about each player, the manager, and the opposition. It’s fair to say that my relationship with the kids has grown and become a lot stronger strictly because of the Arsenal… although Becca has seen some highlights from the Henry/Bergkamp days and asked “Why don’t they play like that NOW???” Apparently, I’m raising at least one true Gooner!
Many thanks to Jared for taking the time to speak with us!