Home from Iraq: Visit to his Niles home includes decorations

Published 6:23 pm Friday, February 3, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Brenda Beadenkopf's Christmas decorations stayed up for a little longer this year - again. For the second time in three years the mother of nine kept the tree lit and the stockings hung at the request of her oldest child.
Captain Ron Beadenkopf, 38, was returning from his most recent tour in the Army on Jan. 10 and wanted to experience a little bit of the holidays.
During his 20 years in the military, Beadenkopf has spent nearly eight and a half years overseas. His duties with the Third Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart near Savannah, Ga. has sent him to Germany, Panama, Korea, Bosnia, and, through two tours of Iraq.
His first time in Baghdad, Beadenkopf was directing troops through city streets and communicating with local residents.
Because the insurgency had not been fully established during his 2003 tour, Beadenkopf said he was able to walk the streets downtown more freely and with a lot less security compared to what he would experience later. The mind-set of the troops during the first tour was also different.
For the tour of Iraq that started in January of 2005 Ron was still giving directions to soldiers, but this time he was in charge of relaying intelligence to the troops from the safety of a base.
He was still able to take pride in the job that had him working seven days a week, regardless of it's repetitiveness.
Switching jobs and being away from the events in Baghdad both required an adjustment on Beadenkopf's part. Things had changed during the year and a half or so that he was out of the Middle East and Beadenkopf said the new position, as well as the shaky structure of the country, meant catching up on the events he had missed.
The higher learning curve also meant a higher level of stress.
To battle the stress, and mainly the feeling of being away from home, Beadenkopf said he, like all other soldiers, learned to pass the time by finding activities that resemble life in the U.S.
Reading became a necessity and the supplies of donated books made it easy to do. Plus, the espresso machine that Ron had since his years at Western Michigan University, and that had traveled around the world with him, put drinking coffee toward the top of the daily to do list as well.
One other hobby that Ron started was writing in a journal. His reason for keeping the personal accounts while in Bosnia was simple.
The writing continued through the first tour of Iraq and also when Beadenkopf returned to the U.S. During his first days back in January of 2003, he wrote this passage in his journal.
As night fell and I found a hotel, the people there accepted me warmly as an honored stranger. Everyone I talked to about Iraq was genuinely appreciative of my service. I had many people who wanted to pay for my dinner. A man in the small-town barber shop even wanted to pay for my haircut.
The next day as I passed through the mountains in the south and entered the Midwest plains, I felt a strange weight lift from my shoulders. When I crossed the Indiana border into a driving snowstorm and home came ever closer, my thoughts coalesced. I had just traveled from one end of this vast country to the other, over a huge infrastructure of roads, and had not met with a single roadblock, or been stopped by a single policeman or paramilitary force. I'd slept and eaten in towns that did not know the fear of attack from a faceless enemy, and watched the steady step of citizens on their way to jobs that paid the bills and put bread on the table. I'd looked into the faces of our people and seen not fear, mistrust and uncertainty, but a sense of rightness and belonging - a sense of peace and purpose.
I think there are many people in this country who drive their superhighways daily, shop in overflowing supermarkets, worship without fear of persecution or attack in their churches, mosques and synagogues, who give not a thought to the effort and dedication that has gone into creating these benefits. They enjoy the fruits of a government, and the services of civil servants who toil in ceaseless obscurity to provide an invisible array of benefits that they need - no, that they demand.”
Beadenkopf looked back on these words in 2005 after returning to the U.S. Again, it was simple items that sparked some fascination. For example, the amount of choices that were offered through things like a phone book and a restaurant menu reminded Ron of what truly identifies his nation.
On Thursday in Niles, Beadenkopf was sharing lunch at home in the sunroom with his mother.