Reporter's Notebook: A Delayed Homecoming
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Earlier this year, reporter John McChesney was embedded with a Minnesota National Guard unit in Iraq. Those soldiers recently learned that they'll spend at least four extra months in Iraq because of the president's troop surge. By the time they return this summer, the Minnesota troops will have been gone nearly two years.
Last week John went to Minnesota to talk with some military families to see how they've been holding up as they wait.
JOHN MCCHESNEY: We drove nearly 700 miles across the still-frozen state, visiting with members of seven families. Two families lived in St. Paul, the rest on farms and in small towns scattered around the southern half of the state. Their soldiers should've been home this week.
Most supported the war at the beginning, some still do, but they all felt that the extension was unfair. And most felt that sacrifice for this war has been spread unevenly, that most Americans just continue to go about buying their iPods, as one wife put it.
Major General Larry Shellito is the head of Minnesota's National Guard.
Major General LARRY SHELLITO (Minnesota National Guard): I think it was actually a deliberate policy to keep the American people as out of this as much as possible, so they're not inconvenienced. I think the American people are involved because they are stressed because we have a war. You know, to most families who have a deployed soldier, you don't know what stress is.
MCCHESNEY: Mary Franco has two boys, and she says even close friends don't quite get it.
Ms. MARY FRANCO: They don't wake up in the morning and have it in their face. This is not Vietnam, this is not World War II, where everybody sacrificed.
MCCHESNEY: Stress on mothers can reach down into the most mundane levels of life. Mary Franco and Daisy Pellant(ph), mother of four, explain.
Ms. FRANCO: I got to the point before I left for work that I literally kind of patted my chest, got a shirt, patted my, you know, thighs. I'm fully dressed, because you're so tired. You know?
Ms. DAISY PELLANT: I was thankful when you and I compared, so how many showers do you get a week? You know, for somebody who loves the long shower and then put on the lotion and a little powder, and here we are, we're like, okay, I'm lucky if I get two a week.
MCCHESNEY: No pity parties here. These moms and others I met maintain their sense of humor in spite of the difficulty of watching kids grow up without their dads, having to explain why birthdays have been missed, why there's a war on. I doubt that I could do the same.
SIMON: NPR's John McChesney with the Minnesota National Guard.
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