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Reunited with families, two Warrensburg soldiers talk of experiences

WARRENSBURG One soldier must return, the other is likely finished with active duty. One speaks of bicultural interaction, the other, the duties of the US military personnel. One spent nine months in the deserts north of Al Basra, Iraq, the other five and 1/2 years in the U.S. Navy at various locations encompassing five seas and oceans. But this week, these two servicemen, with different world views and experiences, came home to Warrensburg to their families. Army Sergeant Philip McLaughlin, 22, a graduate of Warrensburg High School, has returned to the U.S. for his 15-day leave before returning to his post as an Intelligence Analyst serving with the 10th Mountain Division in An Nasiriyah. He has previously served with the Army National Guard. Whether this is my last deployment or not, is yet to be seen, McLaughlin said Tuesday. I am enlisted until October 2009. McLaughlin has taken much from his experiences with the Iraqis, or Interaction, he said. Many of them have taken it upon themselves to learn English, he said. The vast majority of Iraqis are just trying to live their lives. McLaughlin emphasized a soldiers need for cultural relativism when communicating with Iraqi citizens. We always have to remember that normal for them may not be normal for us, he said. McLaughlin sees his time home as an opportunity to reflect on the wars in the Middle East and put them into perspective, he said. When you get home is when you realize what you have accomplished you might not see the whole picture while youre over there, he said. Everyone has their bad times, but thats part of dealing with it the nice thing about being home is that if I want to forget about it at times, I can. McLaughlins father Philip looked at his son and smiled. I am glad he is home, the older McLaughlin said. I plan on spending as much time as possible with him. Gary Cooper Jr., 26, is also a graduate of Warrensburg High School. Unlike McLaughlin, the likelihood of his redeployment is unlikely. Cooper is less than one month away from completing his active service as a Corpsman second class aboard the USS Whidbey Island. He is currently on active leave, and plans on attending SUNY Buffalo in the fall while continuing service in the Navy Reserves. Its not about politics basically what we do is follow our orders which come directly from the President of The United States, he said. While I am enlisted, I support George Bush. Do I agree with the war? Parts of it. Its all about duty. While youre in the military thats what matters, he added. Coopers pragmatism is evident in his own personal situation as well. Basically I joined the Navy for college, he said. I think thats a very good reason to join I am not going to say it necessarily makes you a better citizen, but it really instills the discipline a citizen needs. Cooper added that he believes that a mandatory term of military service would benefit the nation, a sentiment echoed by his father Gary Sr. and stepmother Raluca Sandler. Coopers father, who also spent 10 years in the U.S. Navy, said he thought that every individual, man or woman, should spend six months to a year in military service. Servicemen McLaughlin and Cooper expressed similar opinions regarding the appropriate treatment of soldiers upon returning home from abroad. A lot of people make a lot of sacrifices for this country Everyone should be happy they made it back, Cooper said. McLaughlin said he too appreciated the warm welcome he experienced on return. Its a time to be happy, a time for family, he said. McLaughlin is considering a civilian career in technology or intelligence upon completion of his duty, and he is currently reviewing colleges he might attend. Cooper has plans of becoming the next practicing dentist in the area, following the footsteps of his stepmother, who has maintained a practice in dentistry for decades on Main St., Warrensburg.

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