Words from a soldier home on leave
During World War II, it was common for community newspapers to run articles on troops home on leave or those heading off to war.
I wish that were still the case, but we seldom hear from families or the military about Iraq war homecomings or departures. We know troops are getting off planes nearly every day in Reno, fresh from Iraq. Occasionally, we see them in restaurants and stores wearing their fatigues, but mostly they go around unnoticed.
One of them is Spc. Joshua Patterson, 21, of the 101st Airborne Division, 502nd Infantry Regiment.
We may not be able to tell you about all of the troops, but we can tell you a little about Joshua, whom I called on Thursday after hearing about a welcome-home bash being thrown in his honor on Saturday at Dick’s Roadhouse.
Today is his third day of a 30-day leave, though he got back to the States from his deployment in Iraq about two weeks ago. He went through seven days of reintegration training at Fort Campbell, Ky., before coming home to Carson City.
That training is intended to help soldiers fit back into a normal life, to adjust from an environment of life-and-death decision making to, well, relaxing.
Joshua said he’s not having many problems with that. He’s hanging out with friends and having a good time, although he said he’s not comfortable in large groups. When you’re in a war zone, you build up an awareness. You try to know everything that’s happening around you and develop a knack for always looking over your shoulder.
Then you come home, and you have to flip the switch and try to convince yourself you’re safe again.
It helps when you feel appreciated, he said.
At Fort Campbell, there were many people to greet the soldiers when they touched down Sept. 24. They held a ceremony to welcome them home.
He switched into civvies for the flight back to Reno, however, and blended in with the other travelers. That’s a recommendation from the military, which fears that soldiers could become targets.
When he came home on leave midway though his deployment, however, he wore his battle dress through the airport. He found it interesting that often people stared, but no one said thanks or hi. He figures people are just busy.
But if you want to make a soldier’s day, it’s not hard. Just say a few words.
“Every soldier loves to feel appreciated,” he said.
Joshua joined the Army three years ago. He was in basic training, he recalls, when they were called out to formation and told that Saddam Hussein had been captured. It was a great day.
“We were all very excited,” he said.
His job in Iraq was to fly an aerial drone called The Shadow, which flies high over the deserts and cities.
He’s proud that, while sitting at the controls of that drone, he spotted 20 roadside bombs. After he located them, squads went out and used robots to dismantle the bombs, which were intended to blast U.S. convoys.
Within a month, Joshua will be back at Fort Campbell, awaiting orders. He’s ready to go back to Iraq, if that’s his mission.
“A soldier does his job regardless of whether he thinks it’s right or wrong,” he said. And in this case, he believes it is the right mission.
“It’s slow progress, but it is a necessary progress,” he said. “These people have been persecuted for a long time. They deserve a shot at freedom.”
Sometimes we get letters at the Appeal from classes or individuals looking for someone in Nevada with whom to correspond. Here’s a recent one, in case you want to help out:
• From Jackie Shier, fourth-grade class, C/O Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center, 341 N. Emery Ave., Peshtigo , WI 54157:
“Our 4th grade class is currently studying the regions of the United States. We are learning about each state and their environment, landforms, and special places of interest.
“We are asking for your help. We would like people to send us postcards that show us what your state is like.This would give us the opportunity to get a first hand look at your state and help us to become aware of the great country we live in. If you would like to write a note on back we would appreciate it.
“We want to take this opportunity in advance to thank you for helping us make learning a fun and rewarding experience. We appreciate your help.”
• Barry Ginter is the editor of the Appeal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1221.