Niles soldier home from Iraq
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A young man who has experienced more violent conflict over the last 24 months than most people do in a lifetime, returned to his family in Niles last week.
On Monday, Jason Duffy finally had a chance to catch up with his family at the Home Plate Restaurant in Niles for a belated 21st birthday celebration.
Duffy, a specialist in the Army's Alfa Company 1/187 Infantry 101 Airborne Division returned to the U.S. from Iraq on Oct. 24.
His act of duty in Iraq began on March 1.
Duffy, a Brandywine High School graduate, who also served in Afghanistan from December 2001 to June 2002, turned 21 on April 31.
After serving 14 out of the last 24 months overseas, Duffy, who used to deliver the Niles Daily Star, has returned from Iraq to train for a new job within the military.
He left for Kentucky's Fort Campbell late on Monday after the family get-together.
Having spent so much time in Iraq and experienced what the situation is like on the ground there, he thinks many Americans have a wrong idea of what the Iraqi people are like.
He said 95 percent of the Iraqis are either friendly or indifferent to the presence of U.S. soldiers in their own country.
He also said U.S. soldiers are making great progress in helping the Iraqis rebuild their war torn nation.
Duffy said his unit has helped distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars seized from the Saddam regime that is being used to rebuild and open schools.
In addition, Duffy said, his unit has helped re-open an oil refinery in Kissik, Iraq.
They also helped organize the first free elections in northern Iraq, which gave many villages, towns and cities new city councils and mayors, he said.
Duffy remembers the day of the election.
But although progress is being made daily, Duffy said people opposing the U.S presence in Iraq are entering the country from neighboring countries, such as Syria and Sudan.
Duffy said American units, therefore, are really into making the Iraqis self-sufficient as quickly as possible because it would make the presence of U.S soldiers no longer needed in Iraq.
He said many American soldiers in Iraq care about the Iraqi people, but with recent U.S soldiers being killed in daily attacks, the mood may be gradually changing.
Lucy Duffy, Jason's mother is glad to have her son home in the U.S.
Duffy said her biggest worry while her son was in Iraq was the he was going to get shot.
She wasn't glad, however, when she learned that her son had re-enlisted to train for another job in the military.
Phyllis Nutt, Jason's grandmother, was responsible for throwing the surprise birthday party for Jason at the Home Plate Restaurant.
She felt Jason needed some recognition for the work he has done during his two deployments.
And, she is glad her grandson is home after two long deployments. "We're ecstatic, he's our hero," he said.