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Minnesota National Guard
Proud of state National Guard, Gravdahl returns home

"This is home, and I'm glad to be here," Andy Gravdahl said, just two days home in Pequot Lakes after serving in Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard 34th Infantry Division "Wisconsin was green and nice, but Minnesota is better"

Returning Soldiers spend a week at Camp McCoy before being bused to their home armory For Gravdahl, that meant a long bus ride to Sauk Centre When they got off the bus, they were told to move their loved ones away from the bus so the rest of the Soldiers could get off the bus

His Mom, Barbi, laughed and said the families gathered in Sauk Centre to greet the bus were told not to rush the bus, but to let the Soldiers get off the bus and put down their gear

"We stayed back until a youngster saw his dad and broke into a run and grabbed his dad's leg Then everyone rushed forward," Barbi said

"The Red Bulls, our company, goes back all the way to Bataan and the 194th Regiment," Gravdahl said "We're the Desert Bulls"

Gravdahl is proud of his unit, the First Platoon of Charlie Company The platoon came home intact with no major injuries

"I'd go with a guard unit any day over the regular army," he said "There's more maturity Take the Minnesota Guard, we have our heads screwed on straight"

Gravdahl joined the Guard in March 2004 A graduate of Pequot Lakes High School in 2000, he had his associate degree from Central Lakes College and was working when he decided to join the National Guard When it looked like the 194th regiment would be deployed, he volunteered and joined Charlie Company

He'll be home for a little more than a week, and then he'll be attending a Warrior Leader Course (non-commissioned officer training) Gravdahl as an E-4 rank and has received several commendations and medals

His mom thinks he's taller, but his girlfriend says he's shrunk Gravdahl said with their body armor, pack, helmet and the rest of the gear they were carrying an extra 60 pounds He said the bouncing around in Humvees, LMTs (light medium tactical vehicle) and the new armored security vehicle probably shortened him an inch or so

The bus trip from Camp McCoy to Sauk Centre had its moments, Gravdahl said

"At first every overpass had the adrenalin flowing," he said "Overpasses were danger spots in Iraq I tried to relax and then I decided that I should just look out the window instead of looking up and checking out each overpass we came to"

The bus trip was long, but it also was a chance to see green grass, green trees, and when they stopped for a rest stop they could hear birds singing

We had a few birds near our camp," Gravdahl said "It was some kind of finch, a scrawny thing that we tried to see got some scraps to eat"

There are no fences in Iraq There are camel spiders, hedgehogs and gnarly wild dogs and cats, Gravdahl said To keep their camels and donkeys from straying too far, they tie a short two-foot rope between the animals" front legs

The story was, you can see your dog run away for three months, he said

He called his grandmother, Barb Olson, Breezy Point, from Sauk Centre, so she knew he would soon be home That was Thursday. Friday afternoon he came to Grandma's House to help her take down the yellow ribbons on the big tree in her front yard She had one yellow ribbon up for every month he was in Iraq

Is that the tree your neighbor wants cut down?" he asked his grandmother "I'll come and take care of it for you

Grandmother Barb would not let anyone touch the tree until Andrew was safe at home

Mom Barbi wondered why the families weren't notified the troops were coming home until three days before they would be at the armories.

"Orders change so often," Gravdahl said "Even if you thought you knew something, it would probably change And the army didn't want any large troop movement"

Gravdahl is looking forward to being home, even for just a few days He has made no decisions about his future beyond the NCO school he'll be attending in Utah

More area National Guard Soldiers are returning from Iraq Barbi Gravdahl, mother of Spc Andrew Gravdahl, has kept a list of area Soldiers The list includes Aaron Simpson, Maj Metcalfe, Ryan Rossman, Ryan Melek, Kelly Annable, Josh Jaekel and Mike Davis Those are just the ones she knew about

A very proud mother, she listed the medals her son has won Andrew Gravdahl has received the Army Achievement Medal, two Army Commendation medals, the Good Conduct Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Merit, Combat Action Badge, Overseas Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global war on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Iraqi Campaign Medal

by Betty Ryan, Pineandlakescom News July 25, 2007
Article source: www.pineandlakes.com

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