Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wisconsin teen follows slain cousin's path to dangerous eastern Afghanistan

When Army Sgt. Joshua Brennan of McFarland was killed in Afghanistan in 2007, it only stiffened the resolve of his 17-year-old cousin, Joseph, to join the fight.

“After Josh died, I told Joseph, ‘You can’t be getting out there for vengeance to find Josh’s killer,’ ” said Joseph’s father, Terry Brennan of Mequon. “But that wasn’t it. He was proud of what Josh did and wanted to follow in Josh’s footprints.”

Joseph, now 19, followed more closely than anyone in his big Wisconsin family expected.

Above: family photo shows Pvt. Joseph Brennan of Mequon and his fiance, Emily Barikmo, a UW-Milwaukee student.

Read the full story in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ups and downs of liberty in Beaver Dam

From Nick Druecke in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, roughly 6,339 miles from his post at Camp Taji, Iraq. Nick is in the regular Army. He just happens to be home on leave just as 3,200 state Guard soldiers have returned to their homes at the end of a yearlong deployment. He offers a little advice.

What is it like being on leave? Well honestly there is a certain amount of duality to it; because everything is different now, but nothing has really changed. It's been over a year since I was last home, and Beaver Dam has changed very little in that time. Yet my friends and family are all scattered to the four winds. I will give you a little run down of my life on leave.

My father picked me up from the Milwaukee airport and we started driving home, when it occurred to me that I didn't have any civilian clothes at home, so we stopped at a WalMart so I could pick up some cheap jeans and t shirts. After taking a few steps into the stop I was honestly a little disoriented, the enormity of the store combined with all the sales and advertisements seriously left me a little daunted. I told my dad to stop for a second so I could get my bearings. That might seem a little cheesy, but I swear it happened. Next time you walk into a WalMart just take a moment to look at the shear size of them, you might be a little amazed.

So after that I go home, shower, and begin to relax. Over the course of the next few days I hang out with the few friends who are still in town, have a few drinks, and share mutual boredom with them. Of course you have to see your family, and it's a little funny how that works. Everybody knows that your time home is limited in the service, yet they are always unable to come and see you, you have to go see them. It's a little frustrating at times. As you might imagine most people have the same questions, so you begin to develop a sales pitch of what Iraq is like. While I do understand that people are curious, it can be a bit annoying to answer the same questions every time you meet someone. Not much you can do about it though, just take it in stride with a grain of salt.

So while my friends are all off doing different things with their lives, in different parts of the world (mostly Wisconsin) I am at home. I no longer have a car, and I have been away from everything so long that I no longer know what peoples work schedules are.

"Is school in?", "Do you work today?", "Do you have any free time on Tuesday?", "Where can I meet up with you?" All these questions have frequently left my mouth, and are usually left unanswered.

I think I am painting this picture a little black, which I didn't intend to do. Leave has been awesome, I was just expressing some of the complications I run into. The only really huge difference between life over there and here, is the time schedule. Even when we have days off over there we still have things to do, you work every day of the week, weekends don't exist in a combat zone. I go from working literally 24/7, to having nothing to do. Stress levels at 99% go down to zero. You get so used to being busy in Iraq that you feel like you should be doing something on leave. I go to the gym mostly everyday, yet I still feel uneasy about just sitting around. In the 8 or 9 days I have been home I have slept in my own bed twice, I can't help but run around until I find something to do with someone. Usually that runs long into the night, and I end up crashing there.

I don't want anyone to get the wrong message here, leave has been a blast for me, and I don't want it to end. It's just very difficult to readjust to a lifestyle that is so calm. So if anybody out there has a soldier back from "over there" please be patient with them, it just takes some time.

Live from Wisconsin,

(Large photo: From left, Nick Druecke, Raj Renfro, Tyler Schreiner, Matthew Odum)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Madison troops come home from Iraq

Amy Alston embraces her husband, Maj. Jeffrey Alston, of Madison, at a homecoming for the 105th CAV at the Wisconsin National Guard Armory on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010. Mike DeVries - The Capital Times

Amy Alston, left, Sarah Marks, center, and daughter Kaitlin Marks, 12, anxiously await the arrival of soldiers for their homecoming at the Wisconsin National Guard Armory on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010. Alston is waiting for her husband, Maj. Jeffrey Alston. Sarah and Kaitlin Marks are waiting for their husband and father, respectively. Mike DeVries - The Capital Times

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homecoming halfway point draws near

More than 1,200 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers were back in the state as of this morning with another planeload expected today and two more tomorrow, officials said.

While the number of soldiers on each plane hasn't been confirmed, a Guard press release estimates a total of 750 will come home on the next three flights into Volk Field.

That would bring the total to about three-fifths of the roughly 3,200 who were mobilized a year ago.

Guard officials hope to have all the soldiers back before the end of the month.

Units expected home today and tomorrow are from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, Fond du Lac; soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, Appleton and Clintonville; 829th Engineer Company, Chippewa Falls, Richland Center and Ashland; soldiers from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, Portage; some members of Company A , 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Onalaska; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, Appleton and Clintonville; Company B, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, Green Bay; Company B (Support Maintenance), 257th Brigade Support Battalion, Kenosha; and some members of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry, Madison and Troop C, Reedsburg.

For a recap of the homecomings so far click here.

Family members have instructions on how to confirm estimated flight times. The homecomings are not open to the public.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More coverage of Fort Atkinson Marine Lance Cpl. Meinert

A Fort Atkinson Marine who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday is being remembered as a quiet but funny young man who had a passion for jazz band in high school.

“He was a very funny, loving boy,” said Michael Edquist, the stepfather of Lance Cpl. Jacob Meinert, 20, who Edquist said died from injuries he suffered from the blast of an explosive device. “We’re not sure if he stepped on it or was standing close to it. They couldn’t tell us.”

Maj. Alan Crouch, public affairs officer at the Hawaii base where Meinert was stationed, said he couldn’t confirm the specifics of Meinert’s death.

Read the Wisconsin State Journal story by Samara Kalk Derby here.

Above is the last photo that Jacob Meinert took of himself in December before leaving Hawaii for deployment in Afghanistan. He sent the digital camera with this photo to his brother in Fort Atkinson.

Next stage of Wisconsin Guard deployment is that first year back home

Veterans coming back from long overseas tours must cope with changes they’ve undergone in dangerous, foreign environments, and in the way life at home has changed as well.
Read the Wisconsin State Journal story here.

500 more Wisconsin National Guard back from Iraq soon

Another big chunk of the biggest operational deployment of Wisconsin National Guard troops since World War II will be coming back home on Wednesday.

About 500 of the more than 3,000 soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be returning to Wisconsin on Wednesday after spending the past eight months in Iraq.

Two flights are expected to arrive at Volk Field near Fort McCoy on Wednesday, said Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie of the Guard's public affairs office in a news release.

For a story in The Capital Times click here.

For La Crosse Tribune coverage of the homecoming for 290 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers Monday click here.

For Wisconsin State Journal coverage of the first wave of 115 returning Wisconsin Guard soldiers on Tuesday, Jan. 5, click here.

For video from The Capital Times click here.

Fort Atkinson recalls fallen Marine as good, quiet kid

Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Meinert was killed when he stepped on a landmine while serving with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, a family member said.
For Wisconsin State Journal coverage click here.
For Racine Journal-Times coverage click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

They're back

The first wave of Wisconsin National Guard soldiers is scheduled to return home Tuesday after a yearlong deployment that included seven months in Iraq, officials announced this afternoon. The 3,200 soldiers made up the largest operational deployment of the Wisconsin Guard since World War II.

Click here for continuing coverage from the Wisconsin State Journal.