The Unit Suffers First Deadly Casualties During The Mission
Maybe Hillary and some of the other Presidential Candidates need to read and watch some of these stories before pulling funding out from under the men and women who are and have given their lives and futures for every American…
Sgt.1st Class Scott E. Nisely, left, and Sgt. Kampha B. Sourivong died side-by-side during a firefight with insurgents. (AP)
Quote: "I have not experienced any anger over this situation. I’m disappointed in what I’ve lost for my future. Just my personal loss."
Geri Nisely, Sgt. Nisely’s widow.
(CBS) Nearly a year after they left home, the battalion suffered its first losses in Anbar province. As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, two soldiers—one of the youngest and one of the oldest—were killed in a firefight while trying to stop insurgents. Back home in Iowa, Major Kevin Loney was driving to the home of one of the families to break the news.
"For me, it’s not easy but we do it out of respect for both the family and the soldier and their service to their country. Quite frankly, for me it’s an honor to do it," Loney says. "This is the closest to hell of anything that I’ve had to do in my life in terms of the emotional and the fact that these families are being told they lost a soldier in combat."
He then headed to Sarah Nisely’s porch. Just a year before, Sarah walked down the aisle with her dad Scott, the Marshalltown postman and former Marine.
Scott Nisely’s wife Geri was at her sister’s when the officers came to her door. "And I said, ‘Oh no, this is for me,’" she remembers. "You know the rushing in your ears starts and you go to the door. In my mind I’m just saying just over, and over and over, ‘Just tell me he’s injured, I don’t care if he doesn’t come home with any legs. I don’t care. Just let him come home.’ But then they said no, he’d been killed in action."
Sarah worried her dad wouldn’t come back and that’s why she had moved up her wedding. As father of the bride, Scott and his daughter danced the first dance. And it was the last.
"This was going to be our 25th wedding anniversary when he came home. And he was finally going to get out," Geri Nisely tells Scott. "I have not experienced any anger over this situation. I’m disappointed in what I’ve lost for my future. Just my personal loss."
Geri met her husband’s body when it returned to Des Moines.
Asked why she went to the airport to meet the body, she tells Pelley, "Because we always went to his welcome home. And we felt this one wasn’t any different than any others. And that we needed to be there. It was very moving. The Patriot Guard were there to support us. And all branches of the military service were there. And it was just nice to have him home. Not the way we wanted him home, but nice to have him home nonetheless."
Geri remembers the moment when the officer handed her the flag.
"What were you thinking in that moment?" Pelley asks.
"Well, I think that it’s finally over. I knew that I would miss him terribly.
And then I had a challenge of what my next life is going to be. I mean, going on from here," Geri recalls. "It hasn’t always been easy. Some days are better than others. And that’s okay."
Nisely’s buddies from the Marshalltown Post Office volunteered for the tribute through town.
Kampha Sourivong was killed alongside Nisely.
When his mother Patti comes into his room, she thinks of Kampha. She turned the room into a shrine. "Everything reminds me of him in here," she says.
Sourivong was 20 years old. His father had been a refugee from war in Laos in the 1970’s.
"At 20 years of age we might say he was just a kid, but he was not a kid, he was a man who made the decision fight for his country," a speaker said at Kampha’s funeral.
In that high school gym, a year before, Sourivong marched in to hear Dardis send him off. Now Dardis was back to send him home.
"For you and your family, what do you think about fighting this war, has the sacrifice been worth it?" Pelley asks Patti Sourivong.
"Sometimes I’d have to say sometimes I think no. But then other times I think yeah. I mean it’s what Kampha wanted to do," she says.
When Pelley asked Geri Nisely the same question, she said, "I’m not real sure at this point. It was what Scott wanted to do. I don’t feel…."
December 2006, 15 months after they left Iowa and with only three months left in the tour, some of the guardsmen returned on a Christmas leave. Margo Bodensteiner brought her new daughter, Irelynn, and son, Spencer, to see Jim at the airport.
Irelynn is one of 55 babies born to the battalion during the deployment.
Jim Bodensteiner was back in Iraq after two weeks. By New Years 2007, the Iowa Guard had run more than 300 missions and covered 2.5 million miles. They had suffered two killed in action, and 25 wounded. But the end of the road was in sight. There were only two months to go before they would head home.
"It’s getting to the point where, you know, you don’t want to mess up and have you or one of your buddies get hurt. It’s too late in the game for somebody to lose an arm, lose a leg, lose their life," says Adam Wendling. "We’re kind of in the home stretch now and we’ll be home soon. Should go by quick, hopefully," added his brother Andy.
But that hope was dashed in an instant.
President Bush announced the troops surge. Back home, Major General Dardis asked the families to gather in a National Guard hangar. "The Department of Defense announced yesterday that the First BCT, 34th Division would have their tour extended for up to 125 days," he announced.
"They’re National Guard guys. They’re not active Army. What about the families, the mothers that have sons over there, the wives that have kids? What about them? These men got to be gone for two years away from their family?" one woman asked the general.
"I agree with you. I think it is too long. I couldn’t agree with you more," Dardis replied.
"The latest they’re going to be home is August, maybe?" Shannon Foote wonders. "Are you just saying that to us? Are you giving us 60 days, 90 days. Were ready to make a change, to start a countdown for daddy to come home."
Families who were expecting their soldiers home in April would now have to wait for August. Margo Bodensteiner had to break the news to her son Spencer.
In Iraq, meanwhile, there’s been a snafu in communications. The families know of the extension, but the men don’t. Rumors are flying. Even the commander, Ben Corell, can’t get a straight answer.
"What I owe my soldiers what the truth is and right now I’m not sure what the truth is," Corell remarks.
Finally, official word comes through.
"It’s really, really hard to keep doing this mission and you got everything at home going on everybody is moving on with their lives," one soldier remarked.
"There’s no way I’m reenlisting. I love my family too much. And I hope to get home, settle down and start a family. I can’t handle this anymore," another said.
The Iowa guardsmen had the distinction of being one of the first Guard battalion extended in the Iraq war. At home, the families began to move on.