Conclusion, Part 2 of 2
Saddam Hussein has been captured. Whether that will have any impact on the lives of the troops still in Iraq, is unknown. It has given a little relief to family members of some of the soldiers over there.
"Oh my gosh! It's amazing. It's a relief, definitely," said Shirley Jeffers whose son is stationed in Iraq.
Cpl. Ray Geise, 24, has been in Mosul, Iraq, since last March. As a member of the 101st Airborne Light Infantry with the U.S. Army, he's had many encounters with enemy forces.
His mother, the administrator of Intrepid Home Health Care in Brazil, recently discussed how the military conflict has impacted her son's life as well as her own. She also expressed her thoughts on the capture of the heinous, Hitlerish Hussein.
"I think it's more scary for the troops now than when they first got there," Shirley said. "They're more prone to injury or attack. Some of the Iraqis have thrown things at them and spit toward them. So at first they assumed every one was their enemy.
"But most of the Iraqi people are glad the troops are there. And the kids are very friendly to the soldiers. So I think they've, maybe, let their guard down. In crowds they don't know who the enemy is."
Geise has never been shot but, with his unit and company, he's been in the line of fire on numerous occasions. While on patrol not long ago one of Geise's comrades was shot in the foot. The soldier was not sent home. He had surgery and rehabilitation in Mosul and is still with his unit.
On one maneuver, Geise was sitting guard high atop his Humvee in the gunner position. The enemy had strung fine wire across the roadway as a booby trap.
The unsuspecting Geise was hit in the neck by the wire. He was knocked from the vehicle with his neck cut and bleeding. Fortunately, due to the slow speed at which the Humvee was traveling, the intended death trap left Geise with only minor injuries.
Guerillas killed one American soldier and injured four others Dec. 8, in a drive-by shooting in Mosul. The threat of danger is always present.
Geise was home on leave in October. Shirley said her son spoke of his observations of the country since he's been in Iraq.
"He says women are just for reproduction," she explained. "That's their only purpose. Homosexuality is rampant, possibly because of their perception of women. A lot of the people live in filth and squalor. The soldiers actually drive through sewage pits.
"And some of their customs are so foreign to us," Shirley continued. "They don't use toilet paper. I know it sounds gross, but Raymond said they were told you never shake the right hand of an Iraqi. A lot of our homeless people have more than many lower class Iraqi citizens."
Shirley told of another story Raymond had shared. Saddam Hussein had wanted a son of a particular Mosul family to join his army. When the son refused, he was killed and his family's home was burned down.
Most Iraqi homes are made of concrete blocks. There were none available to Geise's unit so the soldiers used metal sheeting off an abandoned tractor trailer to provide some shelter for the homeless family.
Shirley said being in the military has changed her son. He used to be very outgoing and a jokester. He's retained a good sense of humor but is quieter now and more reserved. He has a much better sense of responsibility and priority too.
"The Army has been good for him," Shirley said. It's been a positive thing. It gave him a sense of purpose and responsibility and pride in himself." But she's not sure, yet, just how the war has effected him.
"He has nightmares," Shirley said. "I think he's had some bad encounters. He's probably had to take some lives. But he won't talk about it.
"When he got home on leave in October, the only clothes he brought was the uniform he was wearing. We went to the mall to get him some civilian clothes. The clerk said her boyfriend was going into the service and she asked Raymond what it was like.
"He was very friendly to the girl and answered her questions readily until she asked what he personally had encountered and had he ever killed anyone. He stopped talking instantly. He kind of internalized and walked away.
"I think he's doing very well, though," Shirley projected. "He has highs and lows but he's interested in what's going on in the world and is not obsessed.
The mother said she had asked her son how he felt about the U.S. involvement in Iraq now. He told her he definitely feels it's necessary for them to be there now. They severely lack structure and the society could crumble if they didn't have some kind of support.
"Sometimes I wonder," Shirley said. "In a job like that, how do you justify doing it and continue doing it if you didn't feel needed and necessary. How much of that is true or just his necessary perception, I don't know."
When Shirley was asked how she felt about the war she said, "With the small amount of information I have, I think we should get done with our agenda and get out of there. I don't think the people there perceive any longer that we're helping, but controlling.
"I do think our country, as a whole, has been very supportive of the troops," she continued. "It's definitely not like Vietnam. My dad was in Vietnam and I remember what it was like at that time.
"When Raymond came home in October, at the airport people clapped and cheered when he got off the plane. There's a lot of patriotism. I think the troops feel that the country is still backing them up. I'm very grateful for that, that it's not like Vietnam."
When asked how she feels about her son's involvement in the war, Shirley said, "I'm very proud of him. I'm scared to death. But I feel confident that he's going to come home safe.
"My biggest concern is the psychological impact this will have on him when he gets home, which is supposed to be in mid-February. When talking to him on the phone I'm trying to get an idea of where he is mentally, emotionally, psychologically. And I don't always capture exactly what he's telling me.
When asked how she felt about the capture of Hussein, Shirley said, "I'm happy for the guys over there. It's a hugh accomplishment for them."
She doesn't know what will happen now. Shirley said some of the Iraqis who were loyal to Hussein may not have known for sure that he was alive. Now that they know he's alive, that may instill hope in them and give them more resolve, more cause for retaliation.
"I just don't know," she said. "He looked like a broken man. This may sound mean. He should have to suffer a little bit. Death is too quick.
"One of Raymond's friends from Tennessee, who came home from Iraq in August, called my daughter to let her know what had happened. He was so excited."
Shirley hasn't heard from her son yet. She is assuming he's out on a mission and will call when he can. Geise's unit is about 110 miles from where Hussein was captured.
"I think we did the right thing in going in there," Shirley said. "And I'm very happy they captured Hussein. But I just wish it could be over and they could all come home."