Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Soldier tells Lansing VFW about his year in Iraq

February 16, 2006

Despite the snow that fell Saturday morning, Army Col. Bruce Reider arrived at Lansing Activity Center in his desert combat uniform, ready to share experiences from serving in Iraq with members of Lansing Veterans of Wars Post 12003.

And Reider has experienced worse weather phenomena than simply snow.

While in Baghdad the most common weather disturbances, he said, were dust storms that would blanket entire areas in darkness, even in the middle of the day. In the year that Reider was in Iraq, it rained only three or four times.

"You miss the rain, you miss the green grass, you miss the changing weather," he said. "You miss the simple things."

Reider, who calls Lansing home, was deployed to Iraq in January 2005 and returned in December 2005. He related tales of his Iraq experience to an audience of about 15 VFW members.

Because there were several Vietnam veterans in the audience, comparisons between the two wars where made. Reider told the veterans that Iraqi insurgents would hide in palm groves and helicopters were the main form of military transportation, as in Vietnam.

One member of the audience asked, "Do you think it's going to take as much time as Vietnam?"

"I hope not," Reider responded. "Because we have a plan, we have a strategy."

Reider's only concern is whether the United States can succeed politically in Iraq.

While stationed in Iraq, Reider, who has served in the Army for 25 years, lived a small private trailer near one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces.

During his presentation, Reider used many photographs to show pictures of his living quarters, his fellow soldiers, Iraqi civilians and the country's terrain.

Reider became emotional when he read that as of Feb. 7, 2,261 U.S. troops had been killed and another 16,653 had been wounded.

Reider did not want to minimize losses on the Iraqi side of the conflict, either.

"We can't forget about the average Iraqi out there," he said. "And I can't talk about the average Iraqi without talking about the kids."

He told stories of handing out school supplies and toys to Iraqi children at a local elementary school, which was made possible through a program called Victory Boxes, in which American civilians send care packages to children in Iraq.

Reider also showed pictures of American doctors examining Iraqi patients and other projects in Iraq, such as building a computer center for children.

"One of the things American soldiers are know for is their compassion," he said.

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