Northwest Indiana News 9 Oct 2003 nwitimes.com Soldiers glad to be home Portage grads reflect on their tour of duty in Iraq, Kuwait BY JOYCE RUSSELL Times Staff Writer ADVERTISEMENT PORTAGE -- Eleven months ago Rick Rodriguez and Adam Ferguson were college students.
The call to duty came as more of a surprise to Rodriguez than Ferguson
Ferguson was starting his freshman year at Southern Indiana University in Evansville.
They talked Ferguson
, a 2002 PHS graduate, into joining.
All three were officers in the school's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program.
The year before Ferguson joined the Guard, President Clinton signed legislation saying the Guard would serve as a forward force.
I wanted to fight for my country and not leave it up to anyone else," Ferguson
Deployment The trio, along with the rest of the 293rd, reported to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, south of Indianapolis, and then to Fort Knox in Kentucky.
On Jan. 2, they left for Kuwait.
While all three were with the 1st Battalion Charlie Company
of the 293rd, each was assigned to a different platoon: Ferguson
with the 1st; Rodriguez with the 2nd; and Tarin with the 3rd.
said they lived in foxholes and the temperatures climbed to 135 degrees.
There were no luxuries, no bathing, no clean clothes, no ice, no reprieve from the heat, they said.
Rodriguez went without showering for 45 consecutive days, Ferguson
for 31 days.
We'd spend 12-hour shifts watching a line in the sand," Ferguson
said there also were concerns about where the soldiers were located.
said Talil was where Saddam Hussein launched chemical weapons to gas his
The chemicals may have been remaining in the sand.
"Some guys had their fingernails fall off," he
said about fellow soldiers.
Others had memory loss and bloody noses, he
In early August, the 293rd was sent back to Kuwait to await a trip home.
But they were caught in the discussion about whether or not the military would be extending deployment for the troops, they said.
While in Kuwait, they worked security.
In mid-September they received word their time wouldn't be extended, and they would be coming home.
Changes Being plucked from the Hoosier heartland and landing in the Iraqi desert changes a person, Ferguson
"We live like a king compared to the people over there," he
said, adding many of the Iraqis live with no running water, sewers and little food.
"I'm glad to be an American.
"What you see on TV is 100 percent less impactive than what you see for yourself," he
"Even people who didn't have a lot of food would offer you something," Ferguson
is especially passionate about doubts of America's involvement in the region.
"Didn't getting rid of a tyrant and someone who committed genocide make it worth it?
E veryone talks about weapons of mass destruction and wants to know why we haven't found a nuclear bomb.
We've found Scud missiles and barrels of nerve gas.
It's not a nuclear bomb we are looking for, it is something that will kill a large group of people.
We've found weapons of mass destruction, they're just not what the media claims they should be," Ferguson
The two said they were touched by the support they received from home, including letters from schoolchildren and church organizations and packages from people they never knew.
They hope that support continues for the soldiers who remain in Iraq.
Their futures When the two returned home this week for a few days, they spent their time with family and close friends.
spent a day talking to students at PHS, telling them his
"It was great talking to the kids," said Ferguson, who 18 months ago was student at the school.
"As much as I love the Army
, as much as I'd love to get deployed again, I don't want to go there again," Ferguson
plans to go back to college, initially to Purdue North Central and then to West Lafayette to study computer technology.
After getting his degree, he wants to join the Army for two years and become a drill sergeant.
wants to rejoin the Guard and become a JROTC instructor.
"I want to mold kids," Ferguson
"I'm not as excited about it as Adam
, but we'll see when the time comes, when my contract expires," he