07/16/06 — Soldier shares view from war in Iraq

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Soldier shares view from war in Iraq

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 16, 2006 9:55 AM

Looking skyward as night falls on Iraq, United States Army Staff Sgt. George E. Grundy learns to appreciate some of the finer things about life as a deployed soldier -- like the sight of an oversized moon and a million stars on a backdrop of perfect dark.

Still, Grundy, a Goldsboro resident, misses home.

"I think we take everything for granted," he said. "Simple things, like waking up in your own bed."

Having been in theater since November of last year, Grundy said he knows full well what it's like to be away from the things that once seemed routine -- waking up to his wife, Ronja, daughter, Myquita, and the smell of summer grass.

"I just miss the fresh air," he said. "And the grass being cut. It all smells so good."

These days, Grundy said he tries to focus more on his mission than those things he left behind. After all, there will be plenty of time for family, friends and eastern North Carolina cuisine when he returns home.

Grundy's typical mornings begin like those of many Americans, he said. After physical training, a shower and a spot of breakfast, it's off to work with his crew, the 694th Maintenance Unit.

"I'm an automotive inspector," Grundy said, adding he works with all kinds of military vehicles each day.

The job is satisfying, he said, but unlike in civilian life, the day's work can't always be put on hold -- not to celebrate his recent birthday or the Fourth of July.

In fact, while many Goldsboro residents were firing up their grills, taking a dip in the pool and catching a glimpse of the Berkeley Mall fireworks to celebrate America's independence, Grundy and his comrades were working to preserve it.

"They gave us a little time to relax, but the mission still goes on," he said. "It doesn't stop for holidays."

Despite missing a holiday by the pool, Grundy said life as a soldier is second to none.

"The Army has done great things for me," he said. "It has made me a better man. I have my days, here and there, but I'm in excellent spirits. Deployment was one of the best things that has ever happened to me."

Maybe it's the opportunity to help people and "see the world" that makes life as an American soldier so worthwhile, Grundy said.

"It's great that we're here helping the Iraqi people," he said. "And it's great that I've had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. So much has happened there. It's beautiful."

And despite some of the news reports back home that many Iraqis are bad people who are growing tired of American presence in their country, Grundy said he has learned first hand that most of the people there are good human beings who desire freedom.

"My views have changed, and it's a positive," he said. "There are a lot of good things that are happening over here that I didn't realize before."

Still, much of the news regarding the activities and people overseas seems to be negative, Grundy added.

"You hear different things on the news," he said. "But (the Iraqis) are just as good as the people back at home. No matter where you go, no matter what the culture is, you're going to have good people and bad people. I could come back to Goldsboro and show you people just as bad."

Therefore, he added, it is important that Americans understand that sometimes, there is more to a story than what you read or see on television.

"I think everyone has just heard the bad stuff," Grundy said. "You've got to focus on people in general. And they are good people who have big hearts. Look in the mirror at your own self before you judge others."

Despite the connections he has made with the natives there and the beauty he often finds in the night sky, Grundy anxiously awaits his return to Wayne County, the quality time he'll spend with his wife, daughter, mother and congregation -- and maybe a Wendy's hamburger or an Aggie's chicken sub, "all the way."

Until then, his mission of providing freedom and protecting it will suffice, he said. And through it all, he will certainly remain the same man he was yesterday.

"I live each day like it's the last day," Grundy said. "That's kind of how I live, regardless of whether I'm in Goldsboro or in Iraq. This, it's just a job. It's not George Grundy."