California assemblyman returns to work after being sent to Afghanistan

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Lieutenant Commander and Assemblyman Jeff Gorell

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Gorell checked out from a year of active duty last Thursday, and checked in to his second job as a member of the State Assembly in Sacramento.

Gorell had been in office just three months before the U.S. Naval Reserve recalled the newfound legislator and dropped him in Camp Leatherneck in southwest Afghanistan.

"I found out shortly before the election," said Gorell. "And told voters if I was elected, I'd have to spend over half of my term in Afghanistan."

He still won by an overwhelming margin. The next three months were spent in a flurry of introducing legislation, assembling staff and establishing some form of policy agenda. Other legislators promised to help shepherd his proposed legislation while he was on duty.

Even though Gorell could communicate with staff and constituents via email, he couldn't do business.

"I wasn't able to perform any of the official functions of my duty," Gorell confessed. "The military wanted me to focus [...] That's a life and death situation. They didn't want me distracted with a second job."

For now, Gorell says he's just enjoying the little things before he goes back to that second job.

"It's strange to see birds and trees and restaurants" after 11 months in the desert, says Gorell. "It's nice to be able to do things that all the other Americans do, like buy lottery tickets. You take some of these things for granted."

Gorell will be back in office next Monday.

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