An airman’s letters from Iraq

by Justin Doering

Now that summer is in full swing, I hope everyone is finding time to enjoy themselves and really appreciate the good weather. I understand there has been a lot of rain recently. Tiffany didn't bother to tell me, but the Red River near our home in North Dakota is only about 10 feet short of the record crest we had in 1997 that devastated the town.<BR><BR>Not surprising, to check the latest in the Echo online and find that fishing is picking up. I am sure by now the walleyes have turned over from minnows to leeches, and tails of the 12 pound monster taken not too long ago are abound.<BR><BR>Good to see Kurt Mattila out and about with his son getting things together for some family fun. Kurt has always been one to really put effort into having a good time. I haven’t seen him or talked to him in a long time, but I'm glad that I can still recognize a few familiar faces and names. <BR><BR>I hope everyone enjoyed Memorial Day weekend. I am sure there were lots of barbecues, fun times out at the lake, and some good stories shared over a cold beverage of choice. What a wonderful way to start the summer. <BR><BR>I hope most of all a moment was taken to think of those who served our country and honor them. Sometimes I wonder if people realize that Memorial Day means more than car sales and the end of the school year.<BR><BR>Soon, it will be Independence Day, and I hope it is a good and memorable one for all. I regret this year that I will not be able to be apart of this years’ celebration as I have in the past. I am sure Gordy, Moots, Niskala, Bonde, and everyone else in the Honor Guard will understand. For Kevin, remember to give a preparatory command and then command to execute on the left foot when you present the colors in the parade.<BR><BR>Time here is winding down, and at the end of the summer I will be coming home. I can’t wait. Already have my bow license bought. Got my renewal application for the Ely/Vermilion Chapter of Minnesota Deer Hunters Association in, too. I saw Fred Tunhorst , Larry Mischke, and Bob Jalonen featured in Whitetails Magazine with one of their MDHA projects.<BR><BR>Coach said “I just did” on a Friday night before deer season opener when I played for him, as he walked off the field with a win. Someone told him to “go get a big one.” <BR><BR>I used to see Fred out on the deer trail every year, and to let him know, we still do well out there every November. My wife shot her first deer on one of the ridges he used to hunt. <BR><BR>For now, I have to stay focused on my job here. I transferred to a different section within Security Forces and today is only my first day. Just doing some dispatching and alarm monitoring, today as the Desk Sergeant. <BR><BR>Yesterday was probably my last day to patrol outside the wire and really interact with the locals. The kids were as excited as ever to see our Humvees coming from a distance. Though it bothered me to see them playing in areas where old and forgotten about piles of mortar shells, rockets, and submunitions lay scattered around like empty pop cans. I sent some pictures, and perhaps Nick will run them.<BR><BR>Perhaps this will be the last time I write for the Echo regarding my time here in Iraq. I came to find some things out for myself, and I got my answers. I am not here at risk for the oil, as someone tried to speak for me. And no one - not even the local nationals have accused me or anyone else of it. <BR><BR>I asked my friend, “Sammy” the local interpreter, whose real name is Mizher, if he had the opportunity to say something to the American people, what would it be? <BR><BR>He didn’t hesitate...“I would say thank you America. Thank you three times over for helping the people of Iraq. Thank you for getting rid of Saddam.” <BR><BR>We managed to get him a Minnesota Twins baseball cap. He wears it proudly but rotates it every 10 days with another cap he got from a U.S. troop here promoting a trucking company in Bricelyn, MN. We ran out of time to get his picture with it before I transferred out of the section I worked with him in. But he promised me he would have it in his car the next time I came up to the section for a visit.<BR><BR>Enjoy your summer, Ely. It seems like it is always here and gone too fast.<BR><BR>