New series on a Kansas National Guard Unit in Iraq
McClatchy has been at the forefront of reporting on the run up to the Iraq war, the prosecution of the war, and veteran's issues. David Goldstein has the first in what is billed to be a four part series about the Bravo Battery of the Kansas National Guard's 161st Field Artillery. There is something unique about the Iraq war - it is being fought with the use of so many National Guard units. The note from the editor at the beginning of Goldstein's article explains "Twenty percent of the U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan come from the Army National Guard. Many are from small towns, and go to war alongside family and friends."
I grew up in a rural community and understand the story the reporter is trying to tell. One example, the death of a 37 year old member of that Kansas Guard unit in 2003:
It had happened 13 hours earlier and half a world away, but the shock wave reverberated around Wichita and much of Kansas. Small towns — Derby, Hillsboro, Wellington — all would hear the bad news about their National Guardsmen serving in Iraq. So would Clearwater and Lancaster. They're still feeling it today.
Lives were disrupted, bodies were broken and dreams were shattered, and Berry's unit's extended family — soldiers, family members, friends, schoolmates — all took the hit. Soldiers in active-duty units come from all over the country, but a National Guard unit is a microcosm of home.
"We're all small-town people," said Berry's stepdaughter, Holli Gill. "Just family."
While the loss of a soldier, whether the individual is serving in our regular armed forces or in the reserves, will always be difficult to accept, the impact of those from reserve forces are felt differently by the communities where they lived. These troops signed on to serve, part time, in addition to the other activities of their lives. They have other full time employment and some even own their own businesses. They are not only likely to be known to more members of their community, they often play important roles in other areas of the community. They might serve on the school board, be a volunteer fireman or be involved in the leadership of a church. Small towns rely heavily on fewer people to do more for the community. The community can suffer in many ways when they lose a member.
A distant war comes home to America is a story that touches on an important and often overlooked consequence of the way we are fighting the war in Iraq. I look forward, with some trepidation, to reading the remaining parts of the series.