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Minnesota National Guard
Returned Soldier happy to trade Iraq for Eagan this Thanksgiving

Returned Soldier happy to trade Iraq for Eagan this Thanksgiving


It was a picture perfect Thanksgiving morning for little David and Bennie Conner, as they played Lincoln logs with their parents at grandma's house in Eagan

Outside a gentle snow fell, almost as if on cue, to usher in the holiday season But you could also see a military star hung in the window, a tell-tale sign that dad had been away and that this holiday would be better than the last

"It was scary because I was just about to have this baby," Becky Conner said as she reflected on last Thanksgiving

"And I had this other child And Dave was leaving to go to War"

Last Thanksgiving it was a rushed pizza dinner on the east coast as Becky bid farewell to her husband, Staff Sergeant David Conner He was headed to Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard's Bravo Company, the 1st Combined Armor Battalion, 194th Armor

"In the Anbar, Fallujah, Ramadi"

Dave rattled off the names of towns where the unit helped organize and train Iraqi police and provided security for high ranking officials

He was home only in spirit last Christmas, his photo placed on an empty plate at Becky's parent's dinner table And as her due date approached in March she could only hope Dave's leave would come through in time

"There were a couple times when my mom and I ended up at the hospital and we were trying to set up some video teleconferencing, in case he couldn't make it back, so he could watch it"

But Bennie waited until Dad arrived to be born, coming into the world on Saint Patrick's Day Dave got to see his newly expanded family two weeks before returning to the war zone

"Our experiences over the past year are vastly different," Dave offered

"She was here raising two kids and working a full time job and taking care of the liaison work while I was in Iraq with a bunch of other men at war"

On top of everything else Becky headed up the unit's family readiness group, serving as a liaison between families and the military command

"I tried to just help them all get through the deployment," Becky said, "This was my way of serving our country"

And Becky said she would have never been able to do it without the flexibility of her employer as she kept the balancing act going

Last month Dave's unit returned, and he came home for good He still had his Iraq traffic instincts with him

"The first day back I was frightened just because we were coming up to an intersection," Dave recalled of a simple drive down a street in Woodbury that for most would seem uneventful

"And I just reflexively thought back to the Anbar province," Dave recalled

"I reach for Becky and I'm like"

Becky, who was driving that day, picked up the story

"He was saying 'What are you doing?' because I was getting too close to this vehicle in another lane"

"And I look at him and say 'I don't know! What am I doing wrong'!"

They both heard in reintegrating seminars that routine events might be harrowing for those used to dodging cars packed with homemade bombs The skills Dave needed to win a Bronze Star in Iraq aren't exactly the same ones he'll need as a father of two boys

As Becky put it, "I told him once right now you're in a position where you are saying, 'No you can't have that knife, you can't have that gun'"

"And you have to come back and change that into, 'No you can't have a cookie'"

Baby Bennie has no idea what he's missed, and his big brother David closing in on age three, will make up for the lost time with his father Dave's confident his sons will understand why he had to miss this part of their lives

"I feel that the military is an institution that preserves everything that we have, our way of life," he said, "And it was just important to be a part of that"

Becky, after working with other National Guard families, says in a way the boys are lucky to go through this at such a young age

"There are a lot of other kids that are struggling and trying to get to know their dads," she said,

"And their dads are very different now And they don't understand why they're different from when they left"

Dave's different too He's more grateful than ever this Thanksgiving

"I thankful for all the support back in the state of Minnesota and thankful for my wife's company for supporting her and her boss And to her family"

"Mostly I'm thankful for my wife and my kids supporting me I'm thankful to be home"

By John Croman, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2007 by KARE All Rights Reserved)
Article source: http://www.kare11.com/

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