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April 26, 2008

 

Happy to be home

Anticipating return to service, soldier discusses Iraq experiences

Platt

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Army Spc. Doug Platt stands at his mailbox in his neighborhood on County Lane in Scott, where nearly everyone has a yellow ribbon on a tree, fence or mailbox. Platt is on leave from serving in Iraq.

By AIMEE MILKS
Staff Reporter
amilks@cortlandstandard.net

SCOTT — Welcome home signs, an American flag and yellow ribbons are scattered on Cutler Road and County Lane, greeting a local solider home on leave from Iraq.
Spc. Doug Platt, 20, came home Wednesday to 6216 County Lane for 18 days of rest and relaxation after being in Iraq since July.
He is stationed at Camp Taji, approximately 12 miles north of Baghdad.
Platt, who turns 21 on Monday, enlisted in the Army after he graduated from Homer High School in 2005.
In Iraq, Platt works as a military paralegal specialist and goes on missions to pick up claims that Iraqis file against the American military for property damage or personal injury.
Platt’s unit can receive between 100 and 150 claims during a mission, which he said occurs once every two weeks.
When Platt is not busy being a military paralegal specialist, he goes on tactical missions, provides security and helps with office work.
“I do pretty much whatever they need me to do,” said the solider in the Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
This is the first time his unit, which was stationed in Germany for a year before it was sent to Iraq, has been deployed in years.
After nine weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Platt went into training to become a military paralegal specialist, which is responsible for advising commanders on legal issues and reviewing claims.
“He’s the first one from Cortland,” Kelly Platt, Doug’s mother, said.
For Platt, being deployed to Iraq was exciting. For his family, it was a different story.
“He called us (from Germany) at 1:30 in the morning and I answered. He asked to talk to his father and told his dad he had to go to Iraq,” Kelly Platt said. “We were in shock. We didn’t want him to go. What we hear on the news, it’s all depressing; men and women getting killed. You don’t hear any of the good stuff; you don’t hear that anyone is really safe there.”
Platt has been in Iraq for nine months of his 15-month tour. He has lost friends, been bitten by scorpions, has had to endure 130 degree heat and has seen it snow there for the first time in decades.
“When we first got there, we were nervous,” he said of himself and his unit. “For a lot of us, it was our first deployment. Off in the distance you would hear gun shots, which added to the nerves.”
Grazed by a sniper’s bullet in the hand, the 20-year-old has had to experience a lot of pain in Iraq.
“A group of my friends all had to go on a mission,” Platt said. “They went to this house to kick open the door, like they’ve done hundreds of times before, but sure enough, the house was rigged to blow and all six were gone.
“For six straight days we had the flag lowered at half staff, and every night we would take a flag down to send to the families,” Platt continued, crying. “No one can use the phone or the Internet until the families are notified.”
He said the base gets really quiet when someone dies, then anger sets in.
“We want to find everyone that had anything to do with it,” Platt said. “I remember after that one, we went and arrested four Iraqis. I don’t know if they had anything to do with that, but we knew they were planting (bombs) on the roads. Once we caught these guys and brought them in, it gave us some relief.”
Platt keeps a journal for each country he goes to and writes in it each night.
“After something like that happens no one wants to leave,” he said of the soldiers’ deaths. “There are times when we wonder why (we’re there), but it’s usually when we are on breaks and have nothing to do. For the most part, everyone I work with is pretty happy. We don’t take too much too seriously.”
Kelly Platt said family members have not watched the news too much since her son has been away.
“He always says not to worry, that we will find out if something happens to him before it will be on the news,” she said.
Platt has an older brother, an older sister and a younger brother who is in sixth grade at Homer Central Schools.
Platt enlisted in the Army for three more years on April 1. His tour in Iraq ends in November and he plans to be home for Thanksgiving, the first holiday he will spend with family since 2005.
He will have 45 days until he is stationed at Fort Drum in Watertown. Platt said he chose that location because most people are deployed from there.
“I want to be deployed again,” he said. “I’ll take anywhere.”