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Geschrieben von Tini mit Charlotte am 04.07.2003, 18:16 Uhrzurück

Changing Perceptions

FORT HOOD, Texas Luisa Leija was lying in bed the other morning when her 9-year-old daughter came bounding in the room, saying, ‘‘Mommy, mommy, there’s a man in uniform at the door.’’
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Leija, wife of a young artillery captain in Iraq, threw on a robe and took a deep breath. She dashed to the door, she said, thinking, ‘‘This is not happening to me, this can’t be happening to me.’’
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A soldier dressed in full camouflage was waiting on the doorstep. It was a neighbor locked out of his house.
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She is still upset.
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‘‘I want my husband home,’’ said Leija, mother of three. ‘‘I am so on edge. When they first left, I thought ‘yeah, this will be bad, but war is what they trained for.’ But they are not fighting a war. They are not doing what they trained for. They have become police, in a place they’re not welcome.’’
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Frustrations got so bad at another base that a colonel had to be escorted out of a meeting with 800 wives of soldiers in Iraq.
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‘‘These women were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for their men to come back,’’ said Lucia Braxton, director of community services at Fort Stewart, in Georgia.
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Military families, so often the ones to put a cheery face on war, are now getting vocal. So are many others. The war in Iraq is not as popular as it once was, and as the number of attacks against U.S. soldiers tick up, as more and more little notices run in the paper listing dead 20-year-olds, support is fading.
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According to a Gallup poll published Tuesday, the share of people who think the war is going badly has risen from 13 percent in May to 43 percent now.
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Likewise, the number of respondents who think the war is going well has dropped from 86 percent in May to 70 percent a month ago to 56 percent now.
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Another recent poll indicated a majority of Americans thought the administration was ‘‘stretching the truth’’ when it claimed evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Ten percent went as far as saying President George W. Bush and his aides were ‘‘presenting evidence they knew was false,’’ according to the poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.
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Despite these doubts, Bush’s approval rating remains high, a solid 61 percent, though down from 71 percent after U.S. troops captured Baghdad in April.
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News this week has not helped. On Thursday, eight U.S. soldiers were hurt in hit and run attacks. An enraged crowd of Iraqis stomped a burning Humvee, bringing back memories of American bodies getting dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.
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‘‘They were supposed to be welcomed by waving crowds. Where did those people go?’’ said Kim Franklin, whose husband is part of 3-16 Bravo, also known as the Bulldogs, the field artillery unit commanded by Leija’s husband.
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Of the soldiers who have died since combat was declared over May 1, it is not Green Berets getting killed, or top notch fighter pilots. But it is soldiers on patrol, or even one shot in head last week buying a video.
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This is what scares the Bulldogs’ wives. Their husbands are masters of the 155mm Howitzer cannon. But with major battles over and little use for a weapon that can shoot 15 miles, or about 25 kilometers, they have been running checkpoints and searching homes, rarely firing a shell.
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The Bulldogs deployed in April, part of a group of 20,000 soldiers from Fort Hood. Yellow ribbons now droop from the trees where they used to meet at dawn and stretch before doing their exercises.
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The garrisons are pad locked. The volleyball court is hot and empty. The blacktop where sergeants used to bark out roll call and the soldiers would snap to attention is a wide open blank space.
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Army bases can be drab places in the best of times. Fort Hood right now is downright depressing. Even on the Fourth of July.
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‘‘I tried every trick in the book to get out of this,’’ said Major William Geiger, the rear detachment commander for the artillery soldiers.
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There is not much glory to helping single moms get their cars fixed. Or overseeing insurance benefits. During the past few weeks, his job has been made harder by the steady attacks against American soldiers.
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‘‘The anxiety is way up there,’’ Major Geiger said.
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People dread the knock on the door. But there are other worries. War can find the weakest seam of a military marriage and split it open.
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After the first Gulf war, the rate of divorce on some army bases shot up by as much as 50 percent, one army study showed.
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‘‘That’s my biggest fear,’’ said Valerie Decal, wife of an artillery sergeant, ‘‘That my husband will come back different.’’
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‘‘Even if you’re GI Joe, if you have to kill someone, that’s not something you just forget about.’’
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Decal is stumped about what to do when the doorbell rings and her 19-month old son runs to the door, saying, ‘‘Da-da, Da-da.’’
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‘‘What do I tell him?’’ she asked.

http://www.iht.com/articles/101694.html

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