48th Brigade trooper is back home to stay - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

48th Brigade trooper is back home to stay

November 20, 2006

Albany -- National Guard troops with the 48th Brigade are now back home. Soldiers returned seven months ago from an 18 month deployment.   That tour put south Georgia's citizen soldiers in the middle of a war zone in Iraq.

Like Staff Sergeant Ernest Thompson many soldiers spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas away from their families. This year those soldiers are home in the safe zone but getting there for some like Thompson was a battle.          

Sitting in his son's room, playing combat video games, is a long way from where Staff Sergeant Ernest Thompson was this time last year, with the 121st Infantry. Instead of playing war games, Thompson was in a real war zone dealing with real guns and fallen soldiers.

"You had to deal with gunfire all the time," he said. "It was gunfire on a day to day basis, you were always hearing it. It almost became the norm. If it was quiet, you didn't hear shooting every now and again, something is wrong."

His tour with the 48th should have ended last June, but was extended because of the conflict. The action still haunts him today. "I still get a little paranoid when a car backfires or loud noise kicks off and I think that's normal."

Normal for anyone living in a war zone. "For the past 18 months I've been living with ah, other soldiers and fellow soldiers and subordinate soldiers and now I'm home and you know, I'm not the man in charge anymore, you know I got, so It's definitely hard."

"Shoes being left in the middle of the floor," said his wife, Shanita. "When did I leave shoes in the middle of the floor. When did I leave shows in the middle of the floor. Toothpaste on the side of the sink, those little minor things."

Minor things that have sparked a new conflict at home. His family still struggles to understand what Thompson's been through.   "My mom asked me today as a matter of fact why don't I ever like to talk about it, it's just nothing I really enjoy talking about. I'll tell, but I'm not going to sit here and beat a dead horse," said Thompson.

In March, Thompson thought he might die when his convoy struck an I.E.D. He's still healing and it's tough to talk about. "Nah, I just didn't want to talk about it." "When he's ready to talk I'm ready to listen," said Shanita. "I don't want to put him through no more then he's already experiencing or had experienced."  

"Things from when I left are so different now because, now I'm married and now I have to adjust to the married life and it's been a hard road, it's been a hard road," he said.

"It was very difficult especially with trying to plan for a ceremony and not knowing if I was going to have a soldier to actually be here to participate in the ceremony, so it was very difficult," said Shanita.

Now with the biggest obstacles behind them the two are looking forward to spending this holiday together. "Christmas was completely miserable, it was miserable." Miserable because Thompson spent last Christmas on duty. "During Christmas time, I can remember, I was standing out in the rain and completely soaking wet with mud and trying to get to the chow hall to get this big meal that they had."  

"They did the best they could as far as trying to make us feel like we were back home with the turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and whatnot and a big dinner on Christmas and whatnot."

This Thanksgiving Thompson's in Albany counting his blessings. "This year during Thanksgiving and Christmas it's going to be a whole new thing for me. I will appreciate it a whole lot more if it's just being here and I guess just hearing jingle bells."

The "thanks" in Thanksgiving means more than turkey and pumpkin pie. "It is for his life, him being back home, life in general, because it's so short and you never know what can happen," says Mrs. Thompson.

It's a holiday that Thompson celebrated earlier this year. "For me, Thanksgiving came about in March of this year when I survived that attack so, I have a lot to be thankful for."

Thankful that his injured leg and scars are just about healed, that he'll spending these holiday's with his family, and thankful that his job in the war is over.  "There's nothing that I left in Iraq. I have no reason to go back over there. There's nothing that I left over there whatsoever."

Thankful, that he won't have to. Because of Thompson's medical treatment for his injuries, he remains on active duty, he's not sure how much longer the treatment will continue.

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