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Tour length unhealthy for family and soldier

by Brittany Yap, staff writer

I remember Oct. 7, 9 a.m. It was surreal at the time, but now it is my reality. The white bus pulled up, and I knew it was time. My heart started beating fast, and my palms were sweaty. Tears welled up, and I didn’t want to let go. He kissed me, turned his back, and walked away. I held his hand through the window for a few minutes before the bus drove off. And just like that, my fiancé was headed for Iraq, which will be his new home for at least a year.


I once wished for our occupation in Iraq to end and our troops to be brought back home; however, I see no end in sight. So now I wish that soldiers’ tours could be shortened, and that President Bush experiences what soldiers’ families have to sacrifice. As long as Bush has interests to protect in the Middle East, and the Iraqi soldiers are not ready to handle the job, the United States will continue to occupy the country to some extent.

Middle East tours of duty are crazy. According to Retired Lt. Col. Bob Takao, the military always has the right to say a soldier has to stay a little longer. The average time spent “in theater” for soldiers is a year, with a two-week rest-and-recuperation period. One year is a long time to be exposed to that type of violence, and some soldiers cannot deal with it and either kill themselves or return home with psychological problems.

According to Takao, the Army is considering shortening Middle East tours to about seven months, as the Marines do. However, Takao suggested that soldiers may have to return to Iraq, or Afghanistan, sooner.

My soon-to-be brother-in-law, who is 21 years old, went to Army basic training for four months and then served a one-year tour in Iraq. During basic, his wife gave birth to a baby girl. A year later she had another girl. Although he came home to a new beautiful family, he was a stranger in his own home. His daughters were afraid of him and refused to go near him. He was devastated. Children, especially those in their earlier stages, are affected by their parent’s lengthy tours and have a hard time adjusting.

My fiancé, who is a specialist in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, has orders to be in Iraq for at least a year. It is most likely that his tour will be prolonged due to the number of troops needed in Iraq. Once he is back in the states, he will spend a couple of months at a military base to demobilize and readjust to being a civilian again. By the time we see each other, a year and a half will have passed. He will miss both my 21st and 22nd birthday, two Valentine’s Days, one Christmas, and most importantly my graduation from HPU. I feel I am capable of handling six to eight months of separation from my fiancé, but when it starts going beyond a year, it is disheartening, discouraging, and stressful on my life, his life, and our future together.

I often wonder what Bush says to the families of soldiers who have died in the war. I also wonder what Bush would do if he had to give up his wife or his daughters for a year and a half.

The soldiers and their families have to deal with the devastation, depression, and sorrow of loss or death. War changes you forever, whether you’re on the front lines or keeping the home fires burning. I wish I could protect my loved one from what he will experience over there: the pain, suffering, and loss of life. He will come back a different person.

Right now, although I continue to go to school and work, I feel like my life is put on hold, but I know I, too, am changing.


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