Over on the Bama Angels site, I had posted information about the 1203rd guard unit from Dothan which arrived home today. The following is an article published this afternoon in the Dothan Eagle about their arrival, and includes an interview with US Army National Guard Spec. Cassie Benefield and a couple others in her unit, citing the importance of their serving in Iraq over the past year:
U.S. Army National Guard Spec. Cassie Benefield looked steadily away as she recalled the story of an Iraqi national she said told her how four car bombings a day had declined to just one a week in the same areas where Iraqi parents and their children could have clinched for the freedom likely known only to the American people.
It was the type of freedom Benefield had signed up with the U.S. military eight years ago to serve for, and from her first tour in Iraq, it was the type of freedom she believed she had shown the Iraqis was possible.
Benefield was one of around 170 national guardsmen of the 1203rd who returned from a year’s deployment to Iraq after completing more than 180 missions, 1st Sgt. Kenneth Moore said.
The tour was the first for soldiers like Benefield and Moore and at least the second for some other soldiers, including Sgt. Ronald Crooks 1st and Sgt. Todd Gibson.
Soldiers said the missions on every tour included the satisfaction of knowing they helped others, but the apprehension of how to go about proving to the Iraqis the U.S. soldiers were not their enemies was a task.
“The war wasn’t near as bad (as the first time). It wasn’t as hostile, but it was still bad enough,” Gibson said as talked of his second tour. “I’m glad to be back.”
Benefield said she believed one of the greatest accomplishments of the unit was the “better” repertoire it gained with the nationals.
“At first they were scared then they realized we weren’t there to take over, we were there to help. It’s an awesome feeling,” she said.
CW4 Mark Mackey said he believed the unit was able to make a difference with the Iraqi children.
“You give them a lot of school supplies, soccer balls, just to show the kids we’re not bad,” he said.
Many of the soldiers said they took from the tour the knowledge of how important America’s success in developments and programs has have been to the entire world.
“Here you can go get water and don’t have to sit around and purify it. I’ve learned you don’t take anything for granted,” said Spec. Jessica Wells, whose two young children lived with her father while she was deployed.
“I appreciate all the freedom we have and the choices we make.”
(Emphasis is mine.)
There you have it, straight from those who see it and live it on a daily basis — we ARE doing good over there! It’s not the first time I’ve heard or read that from a soldier … but I’m glad to that I’m seeing more and more of it in print and reported by the media!