Seven Vermont Guard members sign up for another tour

07/11/05 12:00AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) Hundreds of members of the Vermont National Guard have returned from duty in Iraq this year.

They've reunited with their families, gone back to their jobs and tried to readjust to civilian life. But a number of guard members, seven in all, have volunteered to sign up for another tour of duty in the Persian Gulf.

VPR's Steve Zind talked with two of them.

(Zind) For a mother whose son is in harm's way it's natural to have regrets about the day he joined the National Guard.

(Anne-Lisa Thuot) "Do I regret it? Oh, my. That's a tough one. I don't think Greg has any regrets. As a mother, I wish things had turned out differently and he hadn't joined, we'd saved money for college and all that. But that's not the way it was."

(Zind) For eleven months Anne-Lisa Thuot's twenty-one-year-old son Greg served with the Vermont Guard in Iraq. She didn't stop worrying until he returned to Vermont in March.

(Thuot) "The last month was just torture. I was so afraid at the last minute something would happen."

(Zind) Now Thout is bracing for another nerve-wracking year. After signing up for classes at the University of Vermont, Greg announced he instead wanted to return to Iraq to serve as a medic. Ask him why and you'll get more than one reason.

(Greg Thout) "I love being out with the guys. Unfortunately stuff does happen, but I'm happy that I can be there to potentially save lives. Plus, I kind of like the rush."

(Zind) Thout says it's hard to understand that rush of being in a life-threatening situation unless you've experienced it.

(Gret Thout) "You're going down the road and something happens to go off or something, and you look back and you say, 'Man that was a close one.' Your heart's beating so fast. It's amazing."

(Zind) Thout's friend and fellow guardsman Phil Duprey says he could do with a little less rush, so he's signed up for a second tour, but this time in Kuwait.

Duprey got back home to Barre in March, after spending a year providing security for convoys in Iraq. But he found something was missing in civilian life. Like Thout, he liked the tight camaraderie among soldiers in the field. But there was something else. In civilian life Duprey worked as a cook and as a landscaper. But being in Iraq gave him something that those jobs didn't.

(Duprey) "I want to be of use. I want to help. I want to be a part of it. And that was important to me. It goes through my mind all the time. Here I don't have that. I don't feel the same. It feels good to be there and do that."

(Zind) Duprey says the other guardsmen he served with question his decision to sign up for another tour.

(Duprey) "They give me a lot of high fives for it and they're supportive, but they think I'm out of my mind."

(Zind) Guard officials also had questions. Each man met with Adjutant General Martha Rainville to reassure her that their decision to return to the Persian Gulf wasn't for financial reasons or because they were having difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life.

But it's the families who are having the hardest time with their decision. Phil Duprey:

(Duprey) "They're uncomfortable. They want me to be safe."

(Zind) Duprey hopes his mother will worry less this time because he's going to Kuwait, not Iraq, and he'll be deployed for six months instead of a year.

Greg Thout's parents recently moved to North Carolina. His mother, Anne-Lisa, says she'll miss the supportive network of Guard families as she prepares herself for another year of anxiety.

(Anne-Lisa Thout) "It's so frightening. But after having time to swallow that, you can't help but be so proud."

(Zind) Phil Duprey shipped out to Fort Bliss on July 4. He's expecting to be deployed to Kuwait later this month. Greg Thout expects to be deployed to Iraq within the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind.
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