Valley residents put aside pain in their service to the country

Steve Benson

Broken bones, the Roaring Fork Valley and toughing it out through military training have developed a strange connection. With three months remaining in the Army Reserves advanced training program, Deke Letson broke two bones in his foot.During The Crucible, the final test of the Marine Corps boot camp, Amber DeLuca fractured her ankle. But Letson, from the Basalt area, and DeLuca, of Aspen, both dealt with the pain and limped through the remainder of their training. And they say kids from the Roaring Fork Valley aren’t tough.DeLuca ended up at a Marine camp in Fallujah, Iraq, where she’s entering the eighth month of her tour as a Navy medic. Letson is in Denver recovering from his injury sustained in the seventh week of the 11-week program, and awaiting word from the military for possible deployment to Iraq. Both sucked it up and dealt with their injuries for the same reason: a little pain was better than a lot. Marine recruits who do not pass The Crucible are forced to re-enter boot camp and start from the beginning. Letson’s case was not as severe. But if he’d dropped out, he would’ve been separated from his friends, forced to hang around camp while his foot healed, and eventually finish training with a new group. “I decided to keep going because I wanted to get out of there,” Letson said. DeLuca was thinking the same thing during the final stages of The Crucible. In her mind, nothing could be as tough as Marine boot camp. Then she was sent to Iraq. “She figured Iraq was easier than boot camp. That’s how tough the camp is,” her dad, Frank DeLuca, said in July. “Of course nobody knew what Iraq was about then.” DeLuca could be returning home to Aspen later this month. Letson’s journey may be just beginning. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sacred,” Letson said. “But am I ready? Hell yeah.” Said DeLuca about his daughter: “She’s ready to get out of there.” They’re at opposite ends of the spectrum right now. But they were both drawn to the military for similar reasons. “[Amber] told me, ‘I’m going into the service to get my life organized,'” Frank said.Letson said: “I wanted to better myself, help other people out and serve my country.” And neither have any regrets. “I’m ready to go and do what I signed up for, do what they trained me to do,” Letson said. “This medical thing interested her and she’s into it full time now,” Frank said. “This is her chosen profession.” Steve Benson’s e-mail address is