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Minnesota National Guard
Photo of Woodbury medic in Afghanistan stirs emotions of his family

By Andy Greder agreder@pioneerpress.com
Posted:   04/04/2012 12:01:00 AM CDT

When Sgt Eric Papp's family saw the photo of him in Afghanistan, they felt nervous - but proud

While it reminds them of the hazardous work the Woodbury man is doing, the image - actually several photos showing Papp in a helicopter tending to a young girl injured in an improvised explosives blast in Helmand province in March - also serves as a powerful display of some of the good things being done by Papp and other Americans serving overseas


"I'm just very proud of him," said Papp's mother, Michelle Dailey, choking up, "and scared, naturally"

When Papp deployed to Afghanistan a year ago, his family cherished Skype video-chat sessions that allowed them to see his face They refreshed their inboxes, eagerly awaiting emails

The wife, mother and father of the Minnesota National Guard medic would receive correspondence saying he was OK He said his work involved helping Afghans and fellow soldiers

But Papp, 31, often kept the conversation light, not sharing the gruesome details of working in combat zones

The image, though, provides an insight into the work he and many other service men and women are engaged in overseas

So emotions stirred in Papp's family when the photograph of him tending to the Afghan girl circulated

Dailey keeps the photo, taken by freelance photographer Jim Spiri, posted in her office and on her computer's desktop

"It's there to remind me of what he's doing," Dailey said "Great pride"

Siegmund Papp said his son might have been thinking of his own daughter, Katy Isackson, when he was treating the girl

"I'm sorry for the girl and the father sitting there next to (her)," he said of the photos

"It's an unfortunate circumstance when the photo was snapped I was glad that (Eric) was able to help the little kid that got hurt there It looked like she was going to be OK That was the good part A kid like that, 5 years old How innocent can you be and to be hurt because someone is planting an IED or something like that It's incredible Those are the people you don't want to get hurt You want to keep them nice and safe and out of harm's way"

Siegmund Papp said the photo serves as a powerful image of American service members in war zones

"It shows people that yes, indeed, this is what Americans do, as well," he said

Eric Papp's newlywed wife, Megan Welu, saw the photo and felt a strong desire to see her husband come home

"It's so great to see him in action," Welu said "It made it all that much better It makes me all the more excited to see him"

Welu said Papp's deployment has made for stress in the family Soon after their wedding, he was gone as she became a stepmother and caretaker of their home and finances

"The soldier is serving their country, but their family is, too," Welu said "Everyday challenges become harder I remember specifically trying to hang up curtains, and it was something that I've done before, but everything becomes harder when that person is away"

Papp, a St Paul firefighter, is on his first tour of duty His family takes solace in his attitude

"When you talk to him, he's uplifting and in good spirits," his father said "That's the good part of it"

Eric Papp is scheduled to return to his family this month
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