Two Region 8 Soldiers Return to Southeast Missouri

August 13, 2004 -- Posted at 4:58 p.m. CDT

QULIN -- Many parents of soldiers all over the United States are waiting for their children to return home.  Two young men from Region 8 are back in Southeast Missouri after spending 11 months fighting in Iraq.

"The first thing I did when I got back to my house was take off my shoes and walk in the grass because we didn't have grass over there," said PFC Justin Rodewald.

And it's been a long time since Rodewald and his friend Michael Tidwell have seen grass. They've been fighting in the war in Iraq.

"It was great to leave that place," said Calvary Scout Tidwell.

The high school friends attended Three Rivers Community College for a few semesters, and that's when they decided they wanted to do something different.  They enlisted and months later they were in Iraq.

"Everyone pretty much knew that it was coming, so we knew what we were getting into," said Rodewald.

"You hear about all these people dying and stuff and it's like your watching a movie when you watch it on CNN. When you're over there it's completely different. It's like everything you do over there, it kind of makes a difference in one way or another," said Tidwell.

The men guarded the U.N. building, searched fields for bombs and carried out raids on suspected terrorist hideouts.  All dangerous work and an eye opening experience for two men from Missouri.

"We had mortars being shot at us and they were exploding not to far away and your thinking, hey one of these could hit right here beside me," said Rodewald, "I had one hit about a foot from where as standing about two minutes earlier."

"They would put the roadside bombs in anything from like a dead animal to a plastic bag or a cardboard box or bury it on the side of the road. So you never knew what it was until you drove by and it blew up," said Tidwell as he looked at pictures he took in Iraq.

Both Tidwell and Rodewald say the experience of war has taught them a lot.

"You really don't have time to think about if your going to get shot or stuff, defend yourself and get that over with. Take them out before they took you out," said Rodewald

Tidwell agreed, "Over there you can't really think about what you're doing, because if you stop and hesitate and think about what your doing and the consequences you can get yourself killed or someone else killed."

Right now both Tidwell and Rodewald are stationed at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, but will be transferred to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in a few months.  There, they'll be a part of the 101st Air Borne Division, which is scheduled to return to Iraq.