Updated May 3, 2004








National Guard Families Want Troops Home

National Guard Families Want Troops Home

Illinois Families Petition Rumsfeld To Reverse Decision on Re-Deployment


By Christopher Bollyn


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 combat bonus.


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.