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Rep. Jim Avery, who has been deployed to serve in Iraq for a year, is pictured at an old Iraqi military base.

'The Heat Is On' in Iraq, representative reports



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Iraqi children wave to U.S. troops. Rep. Jim Avery believes the majority of the Iraqi people still want the United States in Iraq.
Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, has been deployed to serve in Iraq for a year with the National Guard's 1140th Engineering Battalion and he graciously has offered to write articles for the Call about his experiences. This is his fourth article and the third he has written since arriving in Iraq.

Every day that I wake up, I think of that '80s song "The Heat Is On."

Actually, this has a dual meaning. First of all, the temperatures have been about 110 degrees during the day. The other meaning has to do with the fact that the number of attacks on coalition forces has increased since Easter.

I cannot be specific about the attacks.

However, I do want you to know that in my opinion the majority of the Iraqi people still want the United States in Iraq.

The Army has told me that I can tell you a little about my mission here, but I cannot be specific. My unit has been tasked with driving special armored vehicles while looking for IEDs — Improvised Explosive Devices or roadside bombs — along the supply routes. This is one of the most important tasks because we are protecting the lives of soldiers and military property on the supply routes.

Our unit has been successful in finding and destroying countless IEDs and weapons caches. I hope my mom doesn't read this next part, but our mission also is very dangerous. You may remember from the news last month eight members of the 1st Armored Division were killed by a car bomb. These soldiers died while providing security for our mission.

I still believe in our mission and I see improvements every day in the security of Iraq. I see more Iraqi Police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers every day. They now are doing some of the patrols that the coalition forces once performed. I want you all to know that the United States has come a long way in such a short period of time.

I was also very happy to see the new Iraqi government take over earlier than expected.

This is really a bigger deal than the media have made it out to be. The Iraqis now are ruling themselves for the first time in decades. This is the beginning of freedom for Iraq; now is not the time to leave Iraq.

I believe if we left now, we would not be honoring all of those who gave the supreme sacrifice for our country. The best way to honor these heroes would be to sustain the freedom these heroes died for here in Iraq.

I just returned from a four-day pass for rest and relaxation. I actually got to leave Iraq for another country in the Middle East. I realized a few things when I was gone on my trip. First of all, I heard silence for the first time in about four months; it was almost strange.

I also realized how much I miss living in St. Louis. I cannot wait to get back home and see the Cardinals, Rams and Blues. I also realized that summer weather in St. Louis isn't really all that bad.

However, I also realized that I missed the guys that I serve with; I worried every day for their safety. I was glad to see that they were all OK when I got back. Now I know how everyone else feels when they hear about an attack on a soldier. You run to the Internet or TV to make sure it is not one of your loved ones.

Many of you have sent me e-mails and letters asking me how I am doing personally. I can tell you that I miss my family and friends every day. I also miss my job as a representative very much. Serving in the Legislature is like being in a big family. Although I usually don't agree with the same issues as the Democrats, we all still get along very well. I have received e-mails, letters and packages from the Capitol and Democrats have sent just as many as Republicans. Although there is a lot of partisan politics in the Capitol, most everyone supports what I am doing here.

I also want to thank all of you who sent me phone cards. I am still in the process of giving all of those cards out to other soldiers. I know that they all appreciate the gift of being able to hear a loved ones voice.

I look forward to the day that my unit comes back from Iraq. I am proud to say that I am in the 1140th Engineer Battalion. Our motto is "Often tested, never bested!" I can say that we have lived up to our motto every day.

Like always, I would love to hear from you personally. My e-mail address is jim_avery98@yahoo.com. and my mailing address is:

SPC Jim Avery

CO A 1140th EN BN 3rd Platoon

BIAP IRAQ

APO AE 09324

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