By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The end of major conflict in Iraq has brought feedback to Havre families with loved ones deployed overseas.
Marine Sgt. Kyle Wohlwend of Havre was unable to contact his family for a number of weeks while stationed in Iraq, his mother said Friday. Only recently was the security level of his unit downgraded, allowing Wohlwend to send e-mails to his parents, Karla and Clarence Wohlwend of Havre.
"Initially there was nothing," Karla Wohlwend said. "So it was truly exciting to hear from him. It has been great."
Kyle Wohlwend had been working at a former Iraqi airfield, providing weather information to coalition aircraft, his mother said. The unit's work is nearly complete, and the Marine said he expects to return to Kuwait this week, she added.
The family of Pfc. Matt Heydon went more than a month without so much as a letter or e-mail after the ground war in Iraq began March 19. Heydon, a Havre High School graduate, is a tank gunner with the 69th Armored Task Force of the 3rd Infantry Division.
When he finally called home from from Baghdad on May 3, his family was elated.
"He was glad the thing was over with," his stepfather, John Keeley, said.
Heydon's mother, Terri Welter of Havre, said she was relieved to hear from her son.
"He just called to let us know that he was safe and that he was in Baghdad," she said.
Heydon and his unit have been patrolling the areas surrounding the airport and assisting in weapons searches, Keeley said.
"He said they had secured one of the palaces over there," Keeley said. "He said it was huge, and that the whole thing was marble. Everything was wrapped in marble."
Michael Badgley Sr. said his son called home but was unable to disclose his location.
"I have no idea where he is right now," Badgley Sr. said of Michael Badgley Jr. "All I know is that he's somewhere in Iraq."
Michael Badgley Jr., a Great Falls police officer, was in the Army Reserves until his activation Feb. 6. He was at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, Wash., until he was sent to Iraq about three weeks ago.
The Rocky Boy family of Army soldier Angela Duran said it has heard from her only once while she has been stationed in Kuwait City.
"The problem is that there is nothing set up over there yet," her father, Manuel Duran, said Friday. "Hopefully when the computers have been set up we can e-mail her."
Manuel Duran and his wife, Linda Winchell Duran, said their first contact with Angela came last week in a brief telephone call.
Family members said one sentiment the soldiers relayed home was their appreciation of life in the United States.
"This is an experience he will never forget," Karla Wohlwend said, and added that Kyle's experience in Iraq has created "a newfound appreciation for his freedom."
Badgley said his son wrote via e-mail that "he didn't like it (in Iraq)" and that the war "will make him appreciate his job a little more."
Despite the dangers of military service, the soldiers' morale is high, their families said.
Ivy Meyers of Rocky Boy said her son Steve Parker is in high spirits.
Parker, a sailor on the USS Carl Vinson, is doing well, but is also ready to come home, Meyers said.
"He's been out there for quite a while," she said. "We're very proud of him."
Wohlwend said her son is in high spirits and has relayed his intention to buy a motorcycle.
"He said that after everything he's been through, he probably deserves it," she said.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tammara Lamar said in an e-mail to friends and relatives that cards, letters and care packages from home have been appreciated.
"They have made a world of difference and bring a little sunshine into my days," she said.
Keeley said Heydon's morale sounded high. During the short phone call made from the former Saddam International Airport, Heydon assured his family that he was OK, Keeley said.
"It sounded like he had matured quite a bit," Keeley said of Heydon. "I'd say he was in pretty good spirits."
Keeley went on to say that watching the war on TV was a little surreal.
"Terri was glued to the TV during the whole thing," he said.
The couple thought they saw Heydon standing near a Humvee during a media broadcast by a journalist embedded with his unit, Keeley said.
"Terri taped it so we can show it to Matt when he gets home," he said. "Wearing a helmet and visor makes it too tough to see his face, so we have to wait until he gets home to find out if it really is him."
The families said that it is difficult when soldiers spend their birthdays away from home.
Next Monday, Heydon will spend his 25th birthday serving his country in Iraq.
Welter sent a case of Twinkies along with 25 candles to Heydon's commanding officer, hoping he will surprise her son with the gift. Along with boxes of goodies, including Tang, instant ice tea, beef jerky and Copenhagen, Welter and Keeley also sent Heydon a plastic shovel.
"I figured with all the sand over there maybe he could do something with it," Keeley said.
Badgley Jr. spent his 30th birthday while stationed in Washington before being deployed to Iraq, his father said.
"It's one birthday he'll remember for the rest of his life," Badgley said.