Staff Sgt. Michael Steele is nearing the end of a two-week trip home.
On Thursday morning, the former Durham resident will be on his way back to Afghanistan to complete a 12-month deployment there — his third tour of duty in the Middle East as a soldier with the U.S. Army.
"I was actually trying to schedule this leave to be home in time for the Durham Fair," said Steele, a 1997 Coginchaug Regional High School graduate. "That didn't work out."
Steele was deployed to Afghanistan in Nov. 2011 as a member of Alpha Company 5th Battalion 20th Infantry, a unit based out of Fort Lewis, Washington.
"Right now, we're down near the border with Pakistan so our day-to-day activities are to head out, link up with the Afghan border police. We're just basically making sure they're doing their job," he said.
The 32-year-old's brief leave from duty comes as violence against U.S. troops in Afghanistan makes headlines, including a recent attack in Zabul province where a member of Afghan security forces killed four U.S. soldiers.
"I know one of them and I'm still waiting to hear [about the others]," said Steele. "He was in the unit I was in before I deployed."
Steele has seen his share of war. After enlisting in the Army following high school, he was first deployed to Iraq during the 2003 invasion. He returned again in 2009 for his second tour of duty which came at the end of the war.
Steele has also spent time in Michigan as a recruiter and is scheduled to transfer to Fort Polk, Louisiana this winter where he'll take on duties as an instructor.
He plans to retire from the military in five years and go to college.
"I'm still trying to figure out what I see myself doing," he said.
While home, Steele has spent time with his father, who lives in Southington, and visited family and friends in Durham and Middlefield. His sister, who lives in Wallingford, recently had a baby making Steele an uncle.
In July, members of the Middlefield Federated Church sent Steele's platoon in Afghanistan more than a dozen care packages. It should come as no surprise that one of his favorite fair foods is the church's roast beef sandwich.
"It's the little things you miss," he said.