- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Think you’ve got a stressful job and a long commute? Compared to Victor Panzieri Jr.’s, your path might just be strewn with roses.

Over the past six years, Panzieri, 43, has made 25 round trips between Foxborough and Kabul or Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

After spending the holidays at home on Spruce Street with Lisa Tuohey and their four children, he left again last week, traveling 6,580 miles from Foxborough to his job site in Kabul as a construction project manager.

Panzieri, a civilian with a U.S. government building contractor, has seen enough nerve-frying mayhem to gain enormous respect for the sacrifices made by combat troops.

But he and Lisa say they and their kids - Brendan, 14, Amanda, 10, Allison, 8, and Alexis, 7, all of whom attend Foxborough schools - have also paid a price.

“We’re sacrificing for the good of the country,” he said of his family’s separations. “Obviously I get paid well, but I really love what I do, working for the U.S. government.”

Previously, running a small Foxborough electrical company, he first accepted the war zone work after the economy soured in 2008.

He worked in Jalalabad, for Houston-based Kellogg, Brown & Root, starting in November 2008, when there were about 80,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, through the 2010 surge to 140,000 troops.

His company serviced 69 U.S. military bases in Northern Afghanistan, providing water, air conditioning, electricity and wastewater.

For his first 18 months, he said he lived in the equivalent of “a plywood box,” and showed a photo of a bare, tiny room with a cot and not much else.

For his first four years, he was embedded with the military.

“They did the fighting, we did everything else,” he said.

He often traveled around the country by helicopter, gaining a perspective on the war that most Americans never see.

In 2012, he joined Contrack International, an engineering and construction firm based in McLean, Va., which builds facilities for the Army Corps of Engineers.

“They’re a great company, and they take care of me,” he said. “They care about their employees.”

He now lives in a diplomatic area in Kabul known as Wazir Akbar Khan, and is about to start building security facilities for State Department embassy personnel. He is project manager on the $120 million campus.

Victor Jr. and Lisa Tuohey, 37, who grew up in Hyde Park and moved to Foxborough in 2006, bought their house on Spruce Street - the first they’ve owned - last April.

“The job has given us a lot of opportunity we didn’t have before,” he said.

He is grateful for Lisa’s support of his unusual career, adding that families like theirs with civilian deployments experience many of the stresses military families go through with long separations.

The civilians, he acknowledges, neither expect nor receive the moral support the troops receive, such as care packages from groups back home. And the civilians will not receive veteran benefits, making the use of civilian workers less expensive in the long run.

“I worry about his safety,” Lisa said, especially if he doesn’t call for more than a day.

His last deployment was his longest - eight months, from May 1 to Dec. 16, 2014. So Lisa and her sister Colleen met up with him in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

He suspects he and other civilian workers are, like the fighters, apt to develop post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, such as paranoia and hypervigilance, symptoms they take home with them.

“Everybody asks me if I am scared to do this and the answer is no, because if I was I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “You have more of a chance of getting in a car accident here than getting injured over there.”

Still, he carries a handgun and has an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle.

No longer embedded with the military, he lives a couple of miles from the worksite in company housing. The company provides meals, laundry, cleaning services. A driver transports him in a Toyota Corolla.

His dwelling has a “panic room” - a small room armored with steel plate and concrete.

“I’ve seen a lot of destruction over there,” including almost daily rocket attacks, he said.

In 2013, four blocks from his house, insurgents attacked a Lebanese restaurant, killing 23 people.

More recently, a U.S. military convoy leaving a base was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a small car laden with explosives.

“There were pieces of the vehicle raining down on us,” he said.

One American and two foreign soldiers were killed.

While regarding the 13-year U.S. and allied mission in Afghanistan as a success, he said violence has increased over the past year, and will continue.

Lawlessness is rampant.

“All they do to settle differences over there is fight,” he said.

In the event of a car accident, he said, the involved parties, on the spot, work out which of the drivers will pay, and how much.

“If you don’t agree, you fight,” he said.

He witnessed a minor accident in which a bus with only the driver inside scraped up against a small car. Four men got out of the car, climbed into the bus and beat up the bus driver.

“No work for him today - he’s going to the hospital,” Panzieri quoted his own driver saying.

Considering how rapidly minor incidents flare into violence, he said, it isn’t surprising that the bigger problems - like the conflicts between the Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects - prove so intractable.

The son of a World War II veteran, he tries to envision global strategies.

He believes one of the reasons the United States invaded Afghanistan immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was to ensure that neighboring Pakistan’s nuclear weapons never fall into the hands of the Taliban.

With the U.S. troop pullout in the coming months, he said he expects this two-year project to be his last in Afghanistan. Afterward, he hopes to find work in the Foxborough area.

“It’s getting tougher on the kids as they’re getting older,” he said.

When they were toddlers, they had no real grasp of his travels.

Allison, now 8, used to think he worked at T.F. Green Airport, having been with her mom so many times when she dropped him off or picked him up in the big building in Warwick, Rhode Island.

He came home to Foxborough on Dec. 17, then flew out again from Warwick last week to Washington, D.C., then on to Dubai, U.A.E., and then to Kabul.

“I love my country. It’s very rewarding to do the work for the government and the soldiers,” he said. “We’re supporting the U.S. and its interests overseas.”

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