Fish Springs soldier on leave from Iraq |

Fish Springs soldier on leave from Iraq

by Sheila Gardner

Belinda Grant/Nevada Appeal News Service Pfc. Matt Williams of Fish Springs is on leave from Iraq, where he is stationed in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

Pfc. Matt Williams could go anywhere in the world for his two weeks’ leave: Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, New York City.

But only one place sounded good after seven months in Iraq – Fish Springs.

“I wanted to get home,” said the 19-year-old military intelligence analyst, based in Tikrit.

Williams arrived Oct. 30 for a two-week visit with his mother, grandmother, sister and friends from Douglas High School.

He was able to spend one day with his best friend Derrick Kepler before Kepler returned to Camp Pendleton.

Compared to other military personnel, Williams said he can’t complain about his living conditions. He’s stationed in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces south of Tikrit.

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“The palace is built like a hotel,” he said. “Each room has its own bathroom. We have air conditioning and I bought an air mattress for my cot. It’s not too bad.”

He works as a military analyst.”We try to predict where attacks will happen,” he said.

His 12-hour days include two hours of guard duty. Otherwise, he’s in front of a computer.

Williams said although he feels secure, his mother worries.

“I call her once a week and e-mail her all the time,” he said. “I am always reassuring her that I’m find, but she still worries.”

Williams feels he is supporting a just cause.

“Most of us support President Bush and support the war,” he said. “We believe the war is legitimate. We don’t get a chance to watch the news very often, but I don’t believe they really portray the war the way it is, what a good job we’re doing. The majority of the Iraqi people are happy we’re there.”

He said one of his jobs was to escort Iraqi workers on the base.

“I’ve asked them what it’s like in the city,” he said. “They get to see our magazines and are in awe of our American way of life. They can’t even afford simple things.”

Williams is set to leave Iraq in February for Germany. “But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to go back for a while.”

Since he’s been home, Williams he’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

“When we landed in Dallas, we walked down this long hallway, it was just crowded with people and veterans who were clapping for us. They were giving us cookies, and the veterans were taking their hats off to us, shaking our hands and welcoming us home,” he said. “Vietnam veterans, taking their hats off to us.

“When I got to Reno, I just kind of turned the corner in the terminal, and there was my family. It was really neat to see them.”

He’s visiting friends and family and trying to get in touch with the dozens of people who sent him packages.

“People I don’t even know were sending me stuff,” he said. “For a while I was getting three and four packages a day. It really meant a lot to me.”

Williams said he’s happy that he chose the Army. He signed up before he graduated from Douglas High School in 2003.

“I don’t regret it one bit,” he said.

He, Kepler and their friend Jim Welch – stationed in the Army in Germany – hope to come back to Douglas County and join the sheriff’s department.

They participated in the DCSO Explorers’ program, and Williams thought an Army tour would look good on his resumé.

“It’s kind of hard to believe sometimes how far I’ve come,” he said. “I get thrown in with people from all over the place, and the people from Nevada are really nice.”