STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It is Friday morning and time again for StoryCorps, the oral history project that is recording America's stories. Last week we heard about a soldier who didn't make it home from Iraq. This week we'll meet one who did. Sergeant Papsy Lemus served in Baghdad in 2007. She's also the mother of two little girls. And when StoryCorps stopped near her home in Salt Lake City last month, Papsy recorded an interview with her oldest daughter, Griselda, who's nine years old.
Ms. GRISELDA LEMUS: How did you feel when you left?
Ms. PAPSY LEMUS: Worried. I didn't know if I was ever going to see you guys again. And it was hard 'cause when you guys got sick, I wasn't able to come home, tuck you in at night and sing you your lullabies or read you a bedtime story like we used to.
Ms. G. LEMUS: Did you see any kids there?
Ms. P. LEMUS: Yes. It was kind of overwhelming because all the little kids in the town ran through the street and start waving at us. And it reminded me of you guys.
Ms. G. LEMUS: Did you shoot anyone or kill anyone while you were there in the war?
Ms. P. LEMUS: No, I never shot my rifle while I was in Iraq. How did you feel when I was away?
Ms. G. LEMUS: I felt really sad. And Dad, he had to try to be the mom and the dad mostly. But he couldn't all the time. So he always had to have me by the mom a lot.
Ms. P. LEMUS: Is there a time when you were afraid?
Ms. G. LEMUS: Yeah, I was afraid. I was afraid on - mostly on your birthdays, because I thought that what if you died on your own birthday and I would never see you again? And it was just hard.
Ms. P. LEMUS: Was it?
Ms. G. LEMUS: Yeah. How did you feel when you got home?
Ms. P. LEMUS: It didn't sink in that I was actually home. You know, am I dreaming? Is it happening? And all I can think of - are they going to remember me and love me or are they going to hold it against me for leaving them? And then you guys just ran up to me and said, I love you, Mom, and welcome home, I missed you.
I started crying and that's when it got me.
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INSKEEP: Sergeant Papsy Lemus with her daughter Griselda at StoryCorps in Salt Lake City. Their conversation and all the other StoryCorps interviews will be archived at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to the podcast at NPR.org.
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