Russell, of the Army National Guard's 427 Brigade Support Battalion in its Logistics Task Force, joined the Army National Guard out of college, in part because he didn't know what he wanted to do.
He started selling cars in 1994. For seven years, he sold 20 cars a month on average at a dealership that sold about 110 a month; for five of those years, he was the salesman of the year. He was called up just once, for nine months in Bosnia, but he was confident that his job would be there when he got back.
In 2001, when he became a sales manager, sales were down slightly. "Leading up to 9-11, it looked like there would be problems. Afterwards, there was a tremendous boost."
He was called up again, this time to protect New York's subway system in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
In 2004, he deployed to Iraq for 15 months. As he left, he worried: "How was I going to come back to work? Would they be understanding?" They weren't. On returning to work in May 2005, he was put in charge of used cars and worked as a finance manager.
He turned in his retirement papers to the Army in late 2007. However, he changed his mind as sales kept falling. By last January, he was getting ready for a deployment to Afghanistan.
Serving at Bagram Air Field, a major military installation, he could monitor the economic downturn over the Internet. He e-mailed friends in search of a job in government or the police, but they always wanted him before his deployment was over. By the fall, he was sent to Delaram, which borders Afghanistan's restive Helmand province, to train the Afghan army.
Not hearing the news about the economy is perhaps a blessing, he said, because he can't focus on what's happening back home. For now, he's stopped looking for work. He said he'd try again when he got home. He hears from his friends at the dealership occasionally, and they try to shield him from the news.
"I don't think they want to give me depressing information. They think I am in a worse place," Russell said.
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