07-03-03: Local military men and women
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
The Daily Standard
This Fourth of July will have special meaning to many people across the
United States, especially those military men and women who recently returned home with
stories to share from Kuwait and Iraq.
Leaving Celina on Jan. 14 left U.S. Marine Sgt. Sam Schoch with mixed
emotions. Eager to serve his country, his patriotism nearly met it match as he said
goodbye to his wife, Robyn, whom he wed just 24 hours earlier.
He is currently in Camp Pendleton, California, and due home sometime
within the next week.
Schoch, the son of Lillian Keefer and Ken Schoch, said in a telephone
call Wednesday there are certain memories he likely will never forget during the war with
Iraq. He said he can still picture a U.S. amphibious assault tank which was ambushed by
Iraqi soldiers near al-Nasiriyah, Iraq, in late March.
"We were out on a reconnaissance mission with a mortuary service
unit. We stood guard around the vehicle while the bodies were removed," said Schoch,
To date, 247 soldiers have lost their lives in the war against Iraq and
its leader Suddam Hussein.
Not too far down the road from the burned vehicle was an elementary
school which had been used by Iraqis to hide weapons and Iraqi officials. Just across an
alley from the school was a sight the men and women dared not dwell on - the bodies of
American prisoners of war who had been left behind by Iraqi soldiers, he said.
"We had to check (the bodies) to make sure they weren't booby
trapped before they could be picked up by the mortuary crews and sent back home to their
families," he said.
Schoch's unit handled water purification. During his 4-month tour of
duty his unit purified 2.5 million gallons of water for soldiers to use for drinking,
showering and laundry.
His army company came within 40 kilometers of Baghdad where they
captured a university building to use as a purification site for the front lines, he said.
While in the country, he met up with many Iraqi civilians who wished to
trade items for U.S. currency. They bartered with bayonets, clothing, even food, he said.
He bravely tried several types of food commonly eaten in those countries, and liked the
unusual cuisine, much to his surprise.
"I ate camel (meat) in Kuwait. It really wasn't bad, it tastes
like a mix between pork and beef," he chuckled.
He loved going on convoys when his platoon would go ahead of the pack
and set up water points. "I went on as many as I could so I could get out and see
what was going on," Schoch said.
Schoch is awaiting release orders while undergoing treatment for a hip
injury, not war related. When he arrives home he will likely take a few days off to get
reacquainted with his new bride before returning to his job at CAPT in Celina, he said.
"All I can say now is I'm ready to come home," he said.
U.S. Army Pfc. Joe Rindler, who arrived in the states June 6, was
overwhelmed and very grateful for the amount of correspondence he received while serving
in both Kuwait and Iraq.
"I held the (Army) company record for most mail," the Fort
Recovery native said with a laugh. "I got letters from family, friends, school kids,
churches and many individuals I've never met. The other guys would ask me, 'My God, how
many people do you know?' "
Rindler, 22, spoke this week to The Daily Standard from his barracks at
Fort Polk in Louisiana. He was able to enjoy time at home last month with family and
friends - and a weekend at the Fort Recovery Jubilee - before returning to the base.
A 1999 graduate of Fort Recovery High School and the son of Mary and
Larry Rindler, he was deployed to the Middle East in February, he said.
His military title is a long one - "nuclear, chemical and
biological warfare specialist." His job was to operate equipment used to detect
biological agents. Fortunately, chemical warfare was not used during the recent war but
the threat was always there.
"It was touch and go sometimes and we were always concerned. You
have to do your job or someone else is going to get hurt," he said.
He described the "big push" by U.S. forces into Iraq:
"During Day 1 and Day 2, I saw Marines and Apache helicopters firing rockets not too
far away. It was loud and quite a sight."
Iraqi children, mainly boys, would regularly seek water and food from
the American soldiers. The soldiers took every precaution, however, even when it came to
the curious children. Throughout the region suicide bombings were occurring frequently,
leaving behind dead and wounded U.S. soldiers.
"We never let anybody approach our vehicles," Rindler said.
"We held our weapons up. We had to let them know we'd use force if we had to."
While away he missed several of his friends' college graduation
parties, but more importantly, he wasn't around when his older sister, Kim, 23, announced
"I hope to be back home for her wedding next June," he said.
One message Rindler wished to share was his concern for the bias many
people express toward the Arab and Muslim community.
"People have to realize not all of them hate us. It's just that
they've been told for so long that we're the enemy," he said with passion in his
voice. "They don't trust us. Remember, we were there once before to help them and
left before finishing the job."
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