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Minnesota National Guard
Iraq veterans return home: Now, a 'new normal'

Relieved but restrained, a Minnesota Soldier returns from Iraq First, he'll fish Then, he'll begin the long task of learning how, and how much, the war has changed his life

Sgt. 1st Class Jim Kallberg and Sgt Maj Cindy Kallberg, both of Rosemount, embrace moments after Kallberg and other Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery got of a bus in New Ulm, Minn, on Monday, July 23, 2007 They returned from Iraq a week earlier (Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press) (Ben Garvin)
NEW ULM, Minn

With a loud, last command - "HHB, DISMISSED!" - and an even louder cheer Monday afternoon, Sgt. 1st Class Jim Kallberg and his unit were released from their 22-month deployment that included 16 months in Iraq

Kallberg, of the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, had a one-word reaction to the command: "Relief"

The Rosemount man was one of the 2,600 Minnesota National Guard Soldiers who served in Iraq and have returned to the United States in the past few weeks Most, like Kallberg, have been delivered to their families

Their Iraq tour was the longest of any US military unit during the war

The returning veterans also have a long road ahead - the road to finding what one commander calls a "new normal"

As they've been told over and over, they must adjust to how their Iraq experience changed them

They heard a similar message Monday

"We hope that you will readjust quickly and happily It won't be easy," New Ulm Mayor Joel Albrecht, who served as a specialist in the Army at the end of the Korean War, said during the unit's welcome-home ceremony "Adjust well We love you, and I wish I could hug each one of you"

Albrecht, the only civilian invited to speak at the brief ceremony, said later that the changes - in the Soldiers and at home - may be subtle, but, built up over time, they can be jarring

On Monday, more than 100 Soldiers were reunited with their families on the hot, sticky Brown County Fairgrounds Many of the Soldiers and many more of the families were tearful and shouting with glee

Not Kallberg He was happy but subdued

He doesn't think he came back a new or different man

"I guess I don't really feel changed," he said

And if he has changed, his wife, Cindy Kallberg, will get him back into line, he joked

Cindy, a sergeant major in the Minnesota National Guard, also will be watching for specific changes

Already, she and her daughter, Kyrie Wilson, 16, have made a pact to make sure Jim isn't in the house alone

"Not to baby-sit him," Cindy said last week But to keep an eye on him

When he was in Iraq, Jim received a combat action badge - and those who've been deep enough in the action to receive that honor are more at risk for traumatic brain injuries, Cindy said Such injuries often are hidden for months and only show themselves after Soldiers return home

Such issues weren't at the front of Jim's mind Monday

"I want to go on a vacation Someplace that's not a desert," he said

He is already getting at least part of that wish

Jim and Cindy planned to stay Tuesday night at a hotel in New Ulm

The plan allows Jim, who traveled more than three hours Monday from a Wisconsin army base to New Ulm, and more than 16 hours last week from Iraq to Wisconsin, to stay put for a bit

It also allows Jim and Cindy, who've been in the same place at the same time for about two months in the past four years, because they've both been deployed, a little time alone

This weekend, even more of Jim's vacation wish will come true He'll be on a lake on a family fishing trip

The family gathering is, in part, a welcome-back celebration and, in part, a goodbye

Jeff Kallberg, Jim's brother, is a staff sergeant in the Air Force

As he decorated his brother's house to welcome Jim back from Iraq, Jeff said he is about to be deployed himself

He is headed, he said, "somewhere in the Middle East"



BY RACHEL E STASSEN-BERGER
Pioneer Press
Article Launched: 07/24/2007 12:01:00 AM CDT

Rachel E Stassen-Berger can be reached at rstassen-berger@pioneerpress.com IRAQ COVERAGE INSIDE

Article Source:
http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_6446885



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