Quotes From the Soldiers
"You're so glad to have a shower for more than two minutes, but you come home and you're like, now what? Now you've done your thing and you're supposed to just drill. So it's just like uh . . . that was it. I've done it. Went over the hump and now what?"
-- Army Reserve Sgt. Lisa Dunphy
intelligence analyst, November 2004-May 2005
"You know how the World War II vets, they sit on their porch and tell their grandkids, 'I was in a foxhole at Normandy'? I see myself doing that. It's something I'll have for the rest of my life."
-- Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Jeramey "Jay" Lopez
security/maintenance recovery, March-September 2003
"When I left Germany, I just thought, Gosh, I can't stand being in the military. Blah blah blah. I remember older enlisted guys saying, 'Son, when you get out, you're going to miss it, miss it.' I was like, 'No way.' But sure enough. I missed the responsibility. I want people to take responsibility for what they've done. In the civilian world, you don't see that."
-- Army Reserve Sgt. Michael Kelly
Civil affairs, April-October 2003
"On a day-to-day basis, people are not quite as tuned in as they could be. They're like, 'My boy's not over there.' . . . I mean, everyone's real helpful when it comes to wounded vets. But on a day-to-day basis, it's like, 'It's not my kid.' "
-- Army National Guard Sgt. Jared Jalbert
pipeline security, March-September 2004
"I'll treat people nicer. In Iraq, I would meet people, and the next day they wouldn't be there."
-- Army Reserve Maj. Randell Alicea
logistics officer, October 2004-October 2005
"I don't think [other mothers] understand. The first thing they ask is, 'How could you leave your kids?' They are not tuned in to what is going on internationally. They are soccer moms, and the world is the school. I always find myself sitting with the dads."
-- Marine Reserve Maj. M. Naomi Hawkins
public affairs officer, August 2004-March 2005
"You know what was really amazing? The people who said, 'Chris, you know, I don't support the cause, but no matter what the cause, I'm always going to support the troops.' I was just dumbfounded by that. I asked this one guy why you don't support the cause. He said, 'I've been watching the news.' "Well," I said, "that's your problem."
-- Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chris Bain
reconnaissance and chemical weapons specialist, January-April 2004
"We left [Iraq] in February '05 and landed in Landstuhl [Germany] in a blizzard. It was 80 in Iraq. Everyone was going through their duffles looking for something warm. I just stared out the window at snowy Germany buzzing by, trying to figure out what had happened. The married guys were hugging their kids and wives. All of us single soldiers went to an empty barracks with no sheets on the beds. It didn't feel like home; we still felt deployed. I walked out to the shopette, and it was out of beer."
-- Army Spec. Garett Reppenhagen
cavalry scout, February 2004-February 2005
"Sometimes it hurts to know Americans have all but forgotten us. America has totally forgotten about Afghanistan."
-- Air Force Senior Airman Marie Binney
airborne missions system specialist, March-September 2003
"I got more thank-yous and pats on the back than I ever got in my life. Even today, when I say I was over there. I did have one old man tell me he didn't appreciate us over there, but that's his opinion. He's entitled to it as an American."
-- Army National Guard Sgt. Cliff Kazarian
mechanic, February 2004-January 2005
"You watch TV at night. There's nothing on the news hardly ever. The only people it's affecting are the people wearing the uniform and their families. It's just not fair that this small population has to bear the burden."
-- Army Sgt. Dustin Conover
medic, August 2004-January 2005
"I get mad a lot. . . . There have been lots of times when I've almost gotten into a fight. I feel like fighting. Even if someone looks like he could beat me up, I don't care."
-- Marine CPL. Jose Rosales
infantry squad leader, March-June 2003
"I'm happier. I know I'm alive and I'm home. There's no reason to be mad."
-- Army National Guard Spec. Michael Gillis
automated logistical specialist, March 2004-March 2005
"I think the most common misperception about war in general is people think it's glamorous and glorious and wonderful, and it isn't."
-- Army Sgt. Kevin Benderman
mechanic, March-August 2003
Benderman filed for conscientious objector status after his Iraq tour but was denied. He was convicted of intentionally "missing movement" for not boarding a plane for Iraq when his unit was redeployed in January 2005. He is serving 15 months at Fort Lewis, Wash.
"Gosh, there are so many people here who don't know what it is like to wear the uniform and serve your country overseas. I'm really grateful."
-- Army Reserve Sgt. Magda Khalifa
civil affairs, February-October 2004; April 2006-present
"I talk to a lot of the guys, and it's hard for us to adapt. The noises scare us. The nightmares we have problems with. We have anger issues. For me, it's hard to hold a job. It's hard on your family. My dad says he can look into a GI's eyes, and he can tell who's been over there."
-- Army Reserve Sgt. Casey Christensen
transportation specialist, March 2004-January 2005
"When they came back, a lot of people said they got PTSD. Yeah, right. Get over it. I saw more and done more than half of them anyway, and I'm not bothered. So what's the problem?"
-- Army National Guard Spec. Eric Gainey
gunner, March 2003-May 2004
"Some people didn't say anything, and it just grew and grew inside of them. I wanted to let it out. Even now that I'm back home, and I look at the pictures of the guys, it's hard to keep from crying."
-- Army National Guard Sgt. Sinque Swales
combat engineer, March 2004-March 2005
"The first week back, I was the best man in a wedding, and I had a Vietnam War veteran come up to me, and he handed me $50 and said, 'Take your wife out to dinner. I appreciate what you did. We didn't get the welcome we deserved when we got back, and I don't want that to happen to you; I want you to go out and enjoy yourself.'"
-- Navy Corpsman Jim Weller
hospital corpsman, January-November 2004
"It was good to see some trees. Something other than the sand. To get here with some fresh air, without oil burning in the air."
-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin Jones
field artillery, February 2004-February 2005
"It's hard to look at Americans and not say, 'You are fat, lazy and have no idea what you have.' The very first time I go into McDonald's and hear someone complaining that there isn't enough ice in their Coke, I'm going to punch them in the face."
-- Army Spec. Ernesto Haibi
medic, November 2003-October 2004
"It was tough being here and watching the news, knowing that those guys I went with were going back. Seeing Marines every day dying on TV made me want to go back. I got out and took a job working security for 13 bucks an hour, and it didn't mean anything. Luckily, I got this job at the fire department, got the therapy -- even if I have nightmares or flashbacks, now it's just an experience I had. Some guys get out, and they hang themselves."
-- Marine CPL. Daniel Finn
infantry, March-July 2003
"I felt a little undeserving because of all the thanks I received. I felt like I was just doing my job."
-- Marine Capt. Robert Washington
artillery, March-June 2003