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"I'm what they call a lifer I guess and she's right there with me." (Video Interview, 1:30:55)

   Kevin Wayne Collier
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Kevin Collier [2007]
War: Afghan War, 2001-; Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: 276th Engineer Company, 203rd Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy); Missouri Army National Guard
Service Location: Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Camp Pelham, Korea; Anderson, Missouri; Joplin, Missouri; Monett, Missouri; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Alaska; Camp Virginia, Kuwait; Bangor, Maine; also: Camp Muleskinner, Baghdad, Camp Victory, and Camp Duke, Iraq
Rank: Sergeant First Class
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Kevin Collier and his wife made a family decision in 1991 for him to join the Army Reserves to earn more money. In 2003, as a member of the Missouri National Guard, he was deployed to Iraq, staying through two unexpected extensions. Collier saw his men anticipate several times going home, only to be disappointed, and he struggled to maintain morale. He is also frank about how his military career affected his marriage; ironically, his deployment to Iraq served to strengthen the bond with his wife, with whom he was able to communicate via instant messaging and webcam. As of the time of this 2007 interview, Collier had re-enlisted in the Guard for another six years, and his wife had earned an award for her work with a military family support group.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (109 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
How the events of 9/11 led to his deployment for Operation Enduring Freedom; got the news on Valentine's Day while having dinner with his wife; his employer was lenient, as he and everyone else in the company were all veterans; not wanting to attend the deployment ceremony; arrival in Kuwait (10:09) Acclimation phase in Kuwait; "hot, miserable, dusty, dirty;" hand washing laundry; convoy to Baghdad on June 14, a big holiday in Iraq; seeing along the road Iraqi equipment left over from the Persian Gulf War; "moon dust;" figuring out how to cool their drinking water; meeting the locals; initially bivouacked in Baghdad at the end of an airport runway, with planes swooping in over them. (09:18) Initial missions involved working with schools to make sure they were operating; explaining the use of "Haji," which became a derogatory for anyone and anything in Iraq the GIs didn't like; "Hajiville" was a market for buying ice and food and trinkets; people were happy to have Americans there; getting to know the vendors, with language barriers breaking down a little. (04:01)
On September 10, unit was told they would be in country for 12 months instead of nine; he had seen that coming; working together with other companies to build temporary housing for troops; they did so well they were asked to build another set of buildings; trying to keep up the morale of his men. (05:47) Internet cafes were "a godsend;" snail mail took too long; learning the ways of instant messaging; talked with everyone in his family; got a webcam and was able to see his family. (03:04) In April 2004, insurgency started to gear up; serious fire fight erupted, involving new American tanks; taking prisoners; boldness of attack on the U.S. main facility; anticipating leaving for home in one month; suspense of waiting to hear if they were bound for Kuwait, "the magic word" that would mean going home; finally getting the orders to move out; loving the amenities in Kuwait; some men getting sick, overeating the U.S. fast food on the base there. (11:24)
Back to the U.S., landing in Bangor, Maine, to welcome home ceremony with WWII, Korean, and Vietnam vets in attendance; treated like a war hero but doesn't consider himself one; "just doing my job." (01:14) Has re-enlisted and received a promotion; early years in service were hard on his family life, because of the interruptions; his wife realized that a lot of men were dependent on him as a squad leader; their ability to communicate directly helped iron out a troubled marriage; she found comfort in a military family support group; she received recognition for her efforts with the group; she better understands his commitment to the military. (05:31) 

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  October 26, 2011
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