Our View: A hero's welcome

Staff Sgt. Allen Swenson of the 1457 Engineer Battalion based in Spanish Fork, Utah, just arrived home to Craig after spending a year in Iraq.

He's come home to a country embroiled in a crisis about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

"It is hard (to feel proud) because everyone is centered on what's going on there," he said.

"That's what the news goes after, all the bad things. They don't look at what schools we built, museums we helped open and all the precious artifacts we retrieved after the looters took them," Swenson said.

"There was a suspension bridge that got shot up that we went in and fixed so it was safe for travel. The media doesn't look at the 175 schools that we reopened. It's not newsworthy enough for them. They want stories about abuse and someone being ignorant."

On Saturday, Moffat County residents will have the opportunity to show Swenson and other servicemen and servicewomen that their personal sacrifices and time spent away from family are indeed appreciated.

The Hometown Heroes picnic at City Park gets started at 11 a.m. There will be free hamburgers and side dishes, and KRAI station manger Joshua Fleming will spin some patriotic songs.

Swenson will be there with some of the mementos he collected during the year his National Guard unit was stationed at the Baghdad International Airport helping to rebuild the war-torn country.

Swenson, who has served with the same unit for 26 years, was deployed to Iraq during Desert Storm. He also has been to Panama and Korea.

But the recent tour of duty in Iraq was the first time he's encountered enemy fire.

"When we first got to Iraq, we got in right after they had taken over the city of Baghdad. There were still a lot of loyal groups operating in that area. There was a lot of unrest."

Swenson's unit's first assignment was to excavate the site of the missile strike intended to take out Saddam Hussein at the start of the war.

As the members of his unit traveled throughout Baghdad, they noticed that the people on the outskirts of the city were a lot more friendly to American forces than those in the heart of the city.

Now that he's back home and safe, Moffat County residents have the opportunity to thank him for putting his life on hold to do what his country asked of him.

We hope the turnout is great and that Swenson and his fellow servicemen and servicewomen from Moffat County go home from the picnic assured that their contributions won't be overshadowed by the actions of a few misguided soldiers.

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