What was important in your life before
[serving your country in a time of conflict] is given new definition
- some things fall away and new things become important. It changes
your interpretation of your environment, the people around you,
and your beliefs (religious and spiritual) in a way each person
responds to differently. It changes everything.
Major Martin Neal and his wife Marna
Martin Neal of Hickman was deployed to
Iraq in March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His unit, the 41st Support Center, followed the
invading forces into Iraq and was assigned to a Corps Rear Area
Operations Center at Mosul. Corps Rear Area Operations Centers
monitor assigned sectors and track all units moving into and
out of the sectors. Martin was an assistant operations officer
heavily involved with the unit's mobilization, deployment, and
redeployment. The unit also coordinated defense for the Mosul
Air Base, staged and escorted civilian fuel convoys, and trained
initial elements of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) later
the Iraqi Army.
Martin's wife, Marna, is an officer
with the Nebraska Air National Guard
and went to Iraq as a contractor from October 2003 to March 2004.
She worked in Baghdad with the Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), where she helped program more than $18 billion in relief
funds for Iraq reconstruction. The Neals were able to see each
other three or four times while they were both in Iraq.
objects were loaned by Martin Neal
Hat, jacket, Iraqi flag, and an Iraqi
bayonet for an AK-47 assault rifle.
Neal on stage with Paul Bremer,
then director of reconstruction and head of the Coalition Provisional
Authority. Bremer visited the 41st Support Center during the
last formal training cycle they ran for the Iraqi Civil Defense
Corps, which was being incorporated into the defense of the Mosul
Neal in his tent in Iraq.
We were among the first units to go
into Iraq and the living conditions were primitive at best. I
lived in a tent for about ten months and ate army field rations
for about three or four months before they finally established
a dining facility . . . at the Mosul Airfield. Initially we washed
our clothes in buckets, built our own latrines and showers, and
slept during the day without air conditioning.
Neal with her sister and cousin's.
As [Martin's] spouse, I felt cheated
that the army was taking him away again. Since we had been married
we had only lived together for six weeks when we got news of
the deployment. The Iraq location was not a concern for me as
is the feeling of most military members-being called to war is
a proud moment to protect the freedoms of the people we train
and work long hours to be prepared for and commit to.
Martin's immediate and extended families
were very traumatized by the extensive and exaggerated media
coverage. It was not unusual for his mother to call to see how
I was doing and end up in tears over her personal stresses. It
was hard as a new spouse to stay strong for myself, for Martin,
the family members of his unit, and his own family too.
Neal with Iraqi soldiers.
I had the privilege to get to know the
Iraqi people while I was working with the Iraqi Civil Defense
Corps (ICDC). I had long conversations with the Iraqi officers
and they told me stories about how life was under Saddam's rule
and Iraq in general. I found out that the Iraqi people were really
no different than Americans because they wanted to have a safe
and free environment where they could live their lives, raise
their children, and practice their religion without fear of retribution.
Their culture is different than ours, but the people are all
the same. They have a lot of work ahead of them to ensure that
freedom is maintained and they have lived under oppression for
a long time. It will not be easy for them.
Members of the 41st Support Center, the first
Nebraska Guard soldiers to enter Iraq.
Members of the 41st Support Center rout looters
from a rocket fuel plant outside Baghdad
A member of the 41st Support Center found
one hundred suicide vests in an abandoned warehouse south of
Members of the 41st Support Center in a bunker
after a SCUD missile attack.
Staff Sergeant Sammy Siminton of the 41st
Support Center graduates his first company of Iraqi soldiers.