As a Special Forces chaplain, Los Alamos State Farm agent Abe Dispennette, third from left, leads a team of doctors, nurses and staff in prayer in a hospital in Afghanistan before a large group of U.S. casualties arrive. Courtesy photo
Before moving to Los Alamos in June, new State Farm Agent Abe Dispennette served as a U.S. Army chaplain with the 101st in service to Afghanistan and 1-77 Heavy Infantry to Iraq, serving in the Special Forces between the two.
“I was one of the last boots in the sand in Iraq and then a month later I was deployed to Afghanistan,” Dispennette said. “I remember a young Afghanistan man stepped on a Russian land mine from the 80s that blew his leg off and his family came to the hospital and began arguing whether to execute him when he went home because he was now a burden to them.“
Dispennette, 35, shared other stories of tragedy as well as triumph, during a recent presentation to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos.
He met many orphans in Afghanistan and wanted to help them, so he contacted Spirit of America requesting sandals and asked for soccer balls from other organizations. When $6,000 worth of sandals and soccer balls arrived, Dispennette said, “I wish I could explain how excited these kids are to get something like that … it’s like giving a kid in the states an XBox.”
Special Forces Chaplain Abe Dispennette, right, travels by helicopter during a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Courtesy photo
Dispennette explained that helicopters typically fly in pairs in case one of them goes down. He spoke about an old Afghanistan farmer in a field who was paid $100 by the Taliban to keep an eye on the sky and shoot any planes or helicopters he spotted.
“The guy had an AK-47 and shot the helicopter I was riding in,” Dispennette said. “He shot at the fuselage and hit the hydraulics, we went down to the ground and caught fire. We got out and found the guy and he was placed next to me in the second helicopter. I actually felt compassion for him, even respect because he was doing what he had to do to take care of his family … I hope I would have that kind of courage under similar circumstances.”
Dispennette explained that he learned so much about humanity during his seven years in the service.
“I learned that soldiers aren’t cold blooded killers, they are people and they want to make a difference,” he said. “It was quite an eye opening experience … who is it that drives our thoughts of who we are supposed to like or not like … the civilians in these countries are just like us, they care about their families in the same way you and I care about our families.”
Chaplain Abe Dispennette with two boys recuperating in an Afghanistan hospital after incurring shrapnel wounds and broken legs from an explosion. Courtesy photo
Dispennette also learned much about the many pitfalls of war from counseling soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was so important for soldiers to stay busy and focused,” he said. “I never took time off three months before or three months after serving overseas because that is the critical time for problems.”
Last stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso following his tours of duty in the Middle East, Dispennette said he had already missed so much of his children’s lives and didn’t want to miss anymore. He heard about the State Farm opening and brought his family to visit the community over the spring break weekend.
“We loved it, returned for the kite festival and moved here two weeks later,” he said.
Dispennette met his wife Kirsta in college at Columbia International University in Columbia, SC. They married in 1999 and he went on to seminary in Florida before entering the United States Army.
She was a stay at home mom during the next seven years while her husband served in the military. He applied and was accepted to take over the State Farm Agency at 1362 Trinity Dr., Suite B, and was honorably discharged in June.
On R&R from Afghanistan, Abe Dispennette gathers with his family in 2008 and meets his infant daughter Zoë Grace for the first time. Courtesy photo
Dispennette moved to Los Alamos the same month with Kirsta and their three children ages 8, 6 and 4. Kirsta now works with her husband in the State Farm Agency.
“We figured out that we were apart more than three years while I was deployed overseas,” Dispennette said. “Now we’re just a few feet apart.”
Abe Dispennette speaks of his miltary experiences during a recent Rotary Club meeting. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
“We love how family friendly it is here … this is my first time living in a small town and it’s a welcome change,” Dispennette said. “When I was a kid I said many times if there was ever a city on top of a mountain – that is where I would love to live.”
Dispennette can be reached at (505) 662-2200. His office is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and on weekends by appointment.