Soldier from Dowagiac makes national news

Published 1:13 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2006

By Staff
Spc. George Pearce of Dowagiac made national news in a Santa hat in Associated Press accounts from Baghdad.
Former Dowagiac residents Billie and Robert Fretz sent the Dowagiac Daily News a photo that appeared in the Pensacola, Fla., News Journal on Christmas Day in hopes it could be shared with his relatives here.
Under a headline, “Celebrating in Iraq no substitute for holidays at home,” the AP account showed Pearce and Aaron Berends of Grand Rapids with the 126th Armor Battalion, National Guard of Grand Rapids, striking a pose while wearing Santa hats outside their barracks in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Pearce is wearing sunglasses.
Berends posed shirtless on the balmy, 60-degree Christmas Eve.
The military planned a Christmas Day dinner of turkey and ham, but most guardsmen the AP interviewed were already counting down to their return home in February.
Their 150-member unit, charged with site security, is based in suburban Grand Rapids.
It deployed Jan. 2, 2005.
The United States plans to cut troop levels in Iraq in 2006.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said President Bush authorized new cuts below the 138,000-soldier level in place most of 2005.
While it didn't exactly feel like Christmas in Baghdad, “We try,” said Pfc. Pete Plaska, 20, whose sister was in Kuwait and father was in Afghanistan, both with the National Guard.