Soccer’s super trooper

Deanna Stevens

Junior member of National Guard returns after Hurricane relief

Junior goalkeeper Misty Kulcsar, who serves in the National Guard, recently returned from helping with Hurricane Katrina efforts in New Orleans. Kulcsar also spent nearly a year in Iraq during February 2004.

Credit: Steve Schirra

Not many people receive a phone call around 11 p.m. on a Friday, saying “be ready to ship out for duty by 1 p.m. the next day.”

Misty Kulcsar got that call two weeks ago.

The junior goalkeeper and National Guard member returned to Kent State Friday after being deployed to aid the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Lake Charles, La.

Kulcsar joined the National Guard in October 2001. She was only halfway finished with her senior year at Wadsworth High School in Ohio when she joined.

It was a pact with a childhood friend that helped her make the decision.

“My best friend and I talked about (joining the National Guard) when we were young,” Kulcsar said. “She ended up moving away, but then she moved back she told me she had enlisted. And I told her that since she did it, I was going to do it with her.”

Although this was not Kulcsar’s first time being deployed, she said it was difficult because of the short notice.

Kulcsar was first deployed in February of 2004, when she was sent on a year-long tour to Iraq.

“This time it hit really hard because I was in the middle of the (soccer) season and school,” Kulcsar said. “The hardest thing was leaving my teammates. There will always be school, but there is only so much time I have with team.”

Saying goodbye two weeks ago was just as hard for the Flashes.

Assistant coach Anita Rodriguez, who has known Kulcsar since she was 13 years old, said it was “heart-wrenching to watch” when Kulcsar visited the team early on Sept. 24.

While in Louisiana, Kulcsar was a part of the transportation unit. The unit was responsible for taking goods, supplies and equipment to and from different spots around the city.

Like the news coverage of the hurricane showed, Kulcsar said the city was practically dead. Wal-Mart was the only store open, but most of the city’s activity was through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military, Kulcsar said.

But during her time in Louisiana, part of her was still worried about life at Kent State. After finally catching up with the work she missed last year while she was in Iraq, she had no idea how long she was going to be gone again.

“Misty is the type of person who wants everything as normal as possible,” Rodriguez said. “To her, it’s business as usual when it comes to her academics and soccer.”

Her professors said it would have been almost impossible to catch up again if she had not returned when she did.

But that was not the case in 2004.

After enlisting just a month after Sept. 11, Kulcsar said she knew she would be deployed to the Middle East at some point.

Kulcsar spent nearly a year in Iraq after being deployed in February of 2004.

She said that her experience in Iraq helped her to learn the most about herself.

“It definitely made me a better person,” Kulcsar said. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore. Nothing really bothers me anymore either. I’ve become more spiritual and realized that you have to put your life in God’s hands and don’t let the things you can’t control affect you.”

Unlike her recent trip, Kulcsar had two and a half months for her and her family to prepare for the departure to Iraq. Toward the end of her wait, she said she began to feel anxious for the trip.

“I began to get really excited to going to Iraq, and doing whatever I could do to protect my country and my family,” Kulcsar said. “I told my friends to look at it as a year-long vacation.”

While in Iraq, Kulcsar also realized how much the Flashes meant to her. From text messages of support to wearing patriotic ribbons in her name, the team showed her how much she meant to them.

“When I was in Iraq, I’d call (the team) every week,” Kulcsar said. “It was really nice to be able to talk to them about anything. If they weren’t as supportive as they were, it would have made things 1,000 times harder.”

Even though she is now more appreciative of the American way of life, her time in Iraq made her re-adjustment to college life more difficult, Kulscar said.

“When I got back from Iraq, it was real difficult,” Kulcsar said. “My social skills were way down. Before I left, I was a lot more outgoing. I could start a conversation with a total stranger. It’s getting better though, but I’m still working on it.”

Even the game of soccer has new meaning to her after her military experience. Although she started playing in high school in order to be with her friends, it is now one of the many things she is not taking for granted. Kulcsar said she is willing to do whatever her team needs her to do and plays with a new passion.

“If I’m not playing on the field, I’m the loudest person on the bench.” Kulcsar said.

Not only has the military affected her outlook on soccer, it has affected the Flashes as a whole. On the day Kulcsar left for Louisiana, the Flashes beat Miami on Sept. 25. at home. The team had not beaten the Mid-American Conference foe since 1998.

Following the Miami game, Kent State coach Rob Marinaro said it was a game they wanted to win for her.

But now, Kulcsar said her future is unknown and she is still considering a life in the military.

“Right now I’m kind of undecided,” Kulcsar said. “At first (the military) was going to be my career, but it depends on where I am with my family. But I really love doing it and being able to help people.”

Contact soccer reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].