'Independence' IRR Soldiers answer call
May 9, 2009
BAGHDAD - After spending a year in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from 2003 to 2004, Specialists Wayne Mason and Ronnie Whitehurst finished up their time on active duty as infantrymen and transitioned to the Individual Ready Reserve and civilian life.
Everything was going fine. They each had families to take care of and never thought they'd see each other again. Until one day a few years into their IRR commitment when they each received FedEx packages.
"I was scared for real, to be honest," said Mason, a native of Columbus, Ohio. "I didn't want to come back to Iraq. I could've got out of reporting, but I have the mentality of a Soldier. I love this country."
"At first, I was debating on what would happen if I didn't show up," admitted a soft-spoken Whitehurst of Pensacola, Fla. "'Cause I really didn't know the consequences."
Both Soldiers swallowed hard and left their families for Iraq again. This time as members of C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 56th "Independence" Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
"Me being a Soldier in the United States Army is something greater than myself," added Mason. "The war's happened and we're here to do a job and help set up this government."
According to Whitehurst, the Soldiers were luckily assigned to the same platoon and gather strength from one another while performing counter-improvised explosive device missions and patrols from Joint Security Station Falahat in northern Baghdad.
"It's been pretty good and smooth," added Whitehurst. "We're getting more weapons off the streets and getting bad guys off the streets to make the neighborhood more calm and peaceful."
Along with cleaning up the streets in their Stryker vehicle, the two Soldiers use their time in Iraq for another purpose.
"I believe I'm also here on a humanitarian mission," explained Mason, who has a two-year-old son. "My girlfriend sends me school supplies, candy, etc. to give to the kids."
"When I see kids out here, I know things are getting better," added Whitehurst. "They know we're here to help and I always try to give them some candy or throw something out because it reminds me of my kids back home."
Whitehurst, who has three sons, accepts his destiny and keeps focused on the mission so he can get back home and continue coaching his sons in T-ball.
Mason, on the other hand, has a renewed interest in the military and plans on making a career out of the Army.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity here right now," said Mason. "I was going to community college but still didn't have a career field and didn't know where I wanted to go. But I've always had the heart of a Soldier." He added, "You only get that 'Band of Brothers' camaraderie type stuff in the military."
"Being able to meet these new guys and bond with them has been good," said Whitehurst. "Basically, this is like a new family."
According to Mason, these Soldiers aren't related but their paths in life have been linked forever along with the rest of their brothers in their platoon.
"It's been a good experience and it's been worth my time," added Mason with a beaming smile before getting serious. "Your life can change in a blink of an eye; time is important to me."
These Soldier's thought their time in the military was over. As it so happens, they've embraced the challenges that they've been given in life and in the Army creating unforgettable relationships with their new brothers and their 'adopted' children in Iraq.