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Iraq is not like what’s shown on TV, Cokato veteran says

Sept. 15, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Alex Lindstrom, 26, who returned to the US July 21 after serving in Iraq, said Iraq is “nothing like what TV says. Iraqis don’t hate us.”

Lindstrom was an operations specialist in Army aviation, out of St. Paul. While in Iraq, he was part of a group called 2-147 Desert Rats. The Desert Rats collected 1,200 pairs of socks and shoes in a Socks for Tots drive for Iraqi children. They also raised $5,000 for pneumatic wheelchairs able to navigate the rough terrain, for Iraqi children with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.

The troops were helpful, and improved the lives of the Iraqi people as much as possible, and people were appreciative, he said.

Lindstrom listed the troops he worked with as his favorite part of being in Iraq. “We had a lot of good people, and every single one of them came back,” he said.

Lindstrom enlisted in the Army in 2004, and was sent to Anaconda, Iraq in August 2007. Anaconda is a forward operating base about 40 miles north of Baghdad. Lindstrom, who is originally from Willmar, tracked aircraft on a computer at Saddam Hussein’s old air base.

It wasn’t easy being in Iraq. He missed his wife, Dee, and children, Gigi, 10; James, 7; and John, 19 months. The last three months were especially difficult, because he had no webcam access to his children. Every other Friday during the school year Lindstrom could see his children online, but not during the summer.

“That was the time I was most disconnected from my family,” Lindstrom said.

He also missed the annual trip to Outing in northern Minnesota for rum black cherry ice cream, without the chocolate chunks in it. There is no place else he knows of to get that flavor of ice cream, he added.

Also, Iraq is hot throughout spring, summer and fall. It was 145 degrees the day he left. Lindstrom remembers the mercury hitting 155 degrees, the hottest weather he has ever been in. “It was hard to breathe,” he said.

Air-conditioning was mandatory. “people took good care of their air conditioner,” Lindstrom said.

The area around Anaconda is desert. On the base, there were no grass or trees. From a distance, Lindstrom could see a palm grove by a river, and Iraqi farms growing sunflowers, grapes and wheat. On the base, there was only one small patch of grass.

The first day he was in Iraq, while he was moving his stuff into the barracks, there was a mortar attack. Alarms went off and the barracks were close enough to the attack to hear explosions. The alarms sound like tornado sirens, he added.

Lindstrom had fun there, too. Lindstrom laughs when he thinks of the time he stretched rubber gloves for cleaning weapons over his head, and inflated them by blowing them up with his nose.

Lindstrom, who worked at Bobcat before he went to Iraq, always wanted to fly helicopters. He rode in them many times, but didn’t get to be a pilot. Lindstrom went into the next-best thing, aviation.

“When you look back on it, you realize they couldn’t have done their job without you,” Lindstrom said.

Now, Lindstrom is attending St. Cloud Tech, and studying architecture.

His family, which seems to cluster around Grove City and Litchfield, has had several members in the military. His cousin, Patrick, in the Litchfield unit, also might be going to Iraq soon. Lindstrom will be able to tell him what to expect.

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