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Back from Iraq, local soldiers honored for service

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

April 5, 2006

U.S. Army National Guard Sergeant Kenneth Miller and nine other soldiers attached to the Hood River Armory recently received medals for their service in Iraq.

Miller was awarded an Army commendation medal for his 18 months of active duty. He said it was very worthwhile to be involved in bringing democracy to the Middle Eastern country.

While in Iraq, Miller and others from the Armory were attached to the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Division of the Army. He was the spokesperson to share a soldier’s perspective of the deployment.

Miller said it was “disappointing” to return to the United States and not see news reports of the rebuilding efforts underway in Iraq.

“The media doesn’t seem to want to show the good things that are happening over there. But I had the opportunity to see the positive changes first-hand,” he said. “The most gratifying thing was the excitement of children about the growing opportunities to better their lives.”

Miller said many anti-war protesters don’t understand how strongly the military supports their right to freedom of speech. He said no one is more committed to protecting American freedoms than a soldier who is willing to put his/her life on the line for that cause.

“I think the only thing that bothers us is when people burn the flag or carry it improperly,” he said. “All we ask is that protesters respect the flag because of what it stands for — and we’ll be the first to salute it when they pass by.”

At a ceremony in late March, retired First Sgt. Leroy Himes and Lt. Colonel Donald Dellinger also pinned commendation medals on the uniforms of: Sgt. Edward Arneson, Staff Sgt. Gary Norris, Sgt. Shane Paasch, retired Staff Sgt. Luke Wilson, Staff Sgt. Wayne Calkins, Staff Sgt. Travis Sheehan, and Sgt. Oliver Phelps. Dellinger also received the award.

In addition, Wilson, who lost his right leg in battle, and Calkins received a medal of valor for acts of bravery and personal sacrifice while engaged by hostile enemy fire.

Miller, Wilson, Calkins, Phelps, Arneson and Sgt. Eric Lund all received combat action badges. They were recognized for facing soldiers or hostile fire in combat.

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