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Local troops prepare to deploy to Iraq
EVERETT They're heading off to Iraq, many of them for the second or third time, but those who were asked about it shrugged off the hardships and sacrifices of their service.
Approximately 150 area National Guardsmen, including some Arlington and Marysville residents, were given an Aug. 19 send-off ceremony and barbecue at Forest Park in Everett, before their deployment as part of the 2,400 National Guardsmen from Washington, and 900 from California, who are members of the 81st Brigade Combat Team.
Pfc. Mark Neuy and Sgt. Edward Stiner will be saying goodbye to their homes in Arlington, but while Neuy is a nearly lifelong native of the town, Stiner moved to Arlington 10 years ago from Wisconsin, where he'll be returning with the rest of the 81st to prepare for their deployment.
Stiner has no family in the area to bid farewell, but Neuy is leaving behind his mother, father, sister and brother, for a second time. Neuy cited the Army's support system, including experienced soldiers like 24-year service member Stiner, as easing his way through such transitions.
"When you need help, you look to your left, and you look to your right, and there's folks like Sgt. Stiner," Neuy said.
This will mark Stiner's third deployment to Iraq. He felt so strongly about bringing other troops up to speed that he pulled an 800-day tour to help support the incoming troops.
"You have to change the way you live your life there," Stiner said. "There are certain habits and pleasures that you might take for granted that you simply can't have, like personal time."
In spite of the rigors of their impending tour, Stiner and Neuy agreed that they hope to return to the Stillaguamish Valley in time to aid in community service such as flood relief, as they did in the fall and winter of last year.
Stiner and Neuy are both third-generation military, but Marysville's Sgt. Clifton Brown admitted that he originally joined the service for college money.
"I stayed in because I fell in love with it," said Brown, who's now served eight years. "I love the status of the Army and all the things I've been able to see and do, that most people never will. It's an adventure."
Heading to Iraq for a second time is not exactly a glamorous adventure for Brown, but his previous deployment was an educational one.
"That dry heat," Brown shook his head. "I mean, I knew it would be hot, but I didn't know it would be that hot. It was like a blow-dryer in my face. The culture-shock was bigger than the heat, though. I met troops from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all speaking different languages. It was more than I'd learned on the Discovery Channel," he laughed.
During his deployment, Brown will be separated from his wife and three children, whom he expects will get good use out of the Army's financial and family support programs.
At both the ceremony and the barbecue, the troops received praise from Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire and her husband Mike, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, State Sen. Paull Shin and Everett Mayor Ray Stevenson.
"We receive continual support from the civilians back home," Neuy said. "I've heard horror stories about how it used to be, but we get constant care packages and positive vibes from our communities."