Soldiers Revisited: Timothy Tanner

06/09/08 7:50AM By Steve Zind
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(Host) Two years ago this month, the soldiers of Task Force Saber returned home from Iraq.

The four hundred members of the Vermont Army Guard had served in one of the most dangerous areas in the war - patrolling around the city of Ramadi.

They lost six of their members during their deployment.

We talked to a number of the soldiers when they first touched down at Camp Shelby, Mississippi on their way back home and profiled profiling them in a series called Soldier Stories.

Recently VPR's Steve Zind caught up with three of them.

Today, in the first of a three part series, the soldiers reflect on life since their return from the war.

(Zind) Timothy Tanner spent his year in Iraq in a tank. He did 200 missions in and around Ramadi always on the lookout for snipers and roadside bombs. When we talked with him two years ago, the day after he returned from Iraq, he described a typical day.

(Tanner from2006) "We go out in sector. It's 120 degrees. So that's hard to deal with, and not knowing when something's going to happen. That's the hardest part, you know. That's why when you're sitting in a tank you're head's on a swivel back and forth. And you're always scanning and looking for improvised explosive devises in places."

(Zind) Tanner came back to a wife and family in Barre Town and a job as an electrician. Two years later, Iraq is still very much on his mind.

(Tanner) "Everyday. Everyday. You think about things you could have done better. Things you've accomplished. People you lost. I still think about it everyday."

(Zind) Tanner took a few weeks off before he went back to work two summers ago. At first everything was fine.

(Tanner) "It wasn't tough the first few weeks, it got tough three or four months afterwards. That time was the real hard part. That's when I had most of my dreams and my problems and my thoughts."

(Zind) The dreams about being in combat and the sleeplessness worried Tanner's wife. She encouraged him to get some help.

(Tanner) "So I did, I went to the VA. It's hard. It's hard for a veteran coming back and they go down there. They do this assessment of you, which takes three or four hours. Ok? You leave from work in the morning to drive two hours to White River to take this assessment. You take the assessment. By the time you get back up here, it's the end of the day. So, instead of going back to work, you go home.

Two weeks later they call you, ‘Hey, you need to come in. We need to talk to you. We need to get you in to talk to somebody.' It's not, ‘what's a good time for you?' It's ‘this is our schedule and if you want help you have to go by our schedule.' Well, if I went by their schedule, I'd be going to groups three days a week at 11 o'clock in the morning and basically missing work three days a week. I can't do that. So, I said, ‘If you can find something closer it would be great.' Never heard another thing from them."

(Zind) Tanner says he just learned to deal with things on his own and he's coping with the post-traumatic affects of his deployment.

Despite the problems he's had, Tanner says he feels good about his time in Iraq and the contribution made by Task Force Saber.

(Tanner) "Where we were it's a lot better now and I feel that what we did in the time that we were there contributed to the way things are nowadays, in Ramadi."

(Zind) Tanner says serving in Iraq gave him a sense of accomplishment that's hard to get from his civilian job. So much so that he wants to go back to Iraq - and he expects to be called up.

(Tanner) "I do expect it. I actually kind of look forward to it. I love being in the Army. The biggest thing for me is every month I go to drill I see new faces. My job is to teach them how to survive when they're over there and that's what's important to me."

(Zind) Between active duty and his time in the guard, Tanner has been in the service for 17 years and he figures he'll keep on until he has to retire.

For VPR news, I'm Steve Zind.

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