National Guard Families Want Troops Home
Illinois Families Petition Rumsfeld To Reverse Decision on Re-Deployment
Anxious relatives of an Illinois Army National
Guard company, whose soldiers were due home by the end of April, have asked
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to reverse his decision to keep them in Iraq.
The 333rd Military Police National Guard company
is based in Freeport, Ill and was sent to Iraq on May 9, 2003, and stationed in
an area south of Baghdad.
The citizen-soldiers, similar to Britain’s
Territorial Army reserve units which were sent to Mesopotamia 90 years ago to
supplement the regular British army, were in Kuwait at Easter, ready to head
home, when they were told their deployment had been extended. The 333rd, and
three other National Guard units from Illinois, were among the 20,000 soldiers
whose deployments the Pentagon extended by 90 days.
“Traditionally a tour-of-duty abroad for a
National Guard unit is a 6 to 8 month tour,” Specialist Megan Hunter from the
public affairs office of the Illinois Army National Guard told American Free
Press, adding that to be in a combat situation in Iraq for more than a year
was something “they did not have in mind.”
In Spc. Hunter’s view, the families have endured
emotional strain and loss of income, particularly those who own their own
business. The company is comprised of “college students and teachers”—a mixed
group—with “a lot of females,” and they were spending one weekend per month
training during peacetime.
For Hunter, an E-4 specialist who has served seven
years in the National Guard, three of them with the 333rd MP company, active
duty pay for a soldier at her level is about $60 per day, plus any hazard or
The reservists’ families recently began a
letter-writing and petition campaign to get the unit’s 150 remaining troops in
Iraq sent home and the Family Readiness Group, the unit’s home-based support
group, took its grievances to Rumsfeld with a petition of 1,000 signatures.
“Their tour in Iraq has already been extended
once, and the strain of another tour of duty in Iraq is becoming a health
concern for these soldiers,” read the petition.
Susan Bonesz, 32, a mortgage underwriter with a
2-year-old daughter, is the wife of the company’s commander, Capt. Ronald
Bonesz, 32. Her husband, Capt. Bonesz, made the following comments in a letter
to the Chicago Tribune: “Most of the soldiers are rightfully upset. After
being told that soldiers would be in Iraq for only one year, any extension is a
hard pill to swallow, but we will all get through this and we will complete our
mission. The soldiers here are strong, but they are also human and have
emotions. They need a break, all of the Guard, all of the soldiers. There are
American soldiers all over the world who would love to serve their country like
these soldiers. These soldiers are tired and exhausted.”
Army Spec. Amy Popurella confirmed that there was
“anger and sadness” in the unit.
“The government asked for 365 [days], we gave them
365, now please just let us go home and get some rest. All of us know we will
be back here one day to do it again. But right now to win this war they need
fresh troops in, not tired ones,” she added in a letter.
Sue Warneke, head of the unit’s Family Readiness
Group, whose 23-year-old son, Jeremy, is a specialist with the unit in Iraq
added her voice to the call for Rumsfeld to rethink his decision.
“I want them home. They have done their tour of
duty. If you get enough support and enough pushing, you might get something
accomplished. I know they have a job to do, but they have already done their
job,” she pleaded.