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Veteran shares experience with students

Tim Roberts shared his military experience after the attack on the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. Roberts was a guest speaker during a special Veterans’ Day Program held Nov. 10 at New London Middle School. John Faucher Photo

Roberts served in Iraq

By John Faucher

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, US Army Reservist Tim Roberts awoke to a phone call from his brother.

His brother, who was also an Army Reservist, said, “We’re going to war! Turn on your TV!”

Roberts turned on his television just as the second plane hit the Twin Towers.

Millions of Americans still recall the morning they witnessed the devastation in New York unfold in real-time.

Less than two years later, Robert’s unit was getting ready to go fight in Iraq.

In early 2003, he landed in Doha Kuwait with the 257th Transportation Company. They were heading for Camp Arifjan one week after the U.S.-led Coalition forces crossed over the border into Iraq.

Their mission was to retrieve all the damaged equipment left along the way in Iraq and bring it back to Kuwait.

One of his first missions was traveling to Baghdad International Airport to drop off supplies and retrieve equipment one week after the US Military took the airport.

He later spent his 21st birthday at the base in Baghdad and recalled being there for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Roberts said the base in Baghdad was on lockdown during Thanksgiving, due to a surprise visit by then President George W. Bush.

He shared slides of his deployment with students and community members attending the program.

While there were some memorable moments such as the presidential visit, “It wasn’t easy being a reservist,” said Roberts.

“Our unit didn’t always have the most modern equipment and we did not travel with security details, but instead we were on our own.

Our trucks didn’t have armor and our support vehicles were soft topped Humvees,” he said.” We even had old Vietnam era flak jackets that would not stop a bullet.”

They often spent days driving, eating and even sleeping in or on their trucks.

“We did not realize the enemy would target our convoys with IEDs [improvised exploding devices].”

He recalled on one such mission they had a 10-truck convoy returning from Fallujah when all of a sudden they noticed civilian vehicles had all disappeared off the road.

That was when Roberts said, an IED detonated hitting the truck in front of him.

“Fortunately, our trucks were 12-feet high and we were able to drive away out of the kill zone. We were lucky we didn’t lose anyone in that convoy attack, but it made it very clear to all of us that we were in a war for sure,” said Roberts.

During their one-year deployment, the 257th Transportation Company drove over 2 million miles.

Roberts told students to this day, he still could not drive over anything randomly lying in the road.

“This comes from a year of driving in Iraq, never knowing where the bombs were,” he said.

Old Glory Honor Flight

In September Roberts was one of 58 northeast Wisconsin veterans selected to participate in the first of its kind Old Glory Honor Flight to New York City honoring Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

As part of the tour, veterans visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the Statue of Liberty, Tower One and a wreath-laying ceremony at the reflecting pool.

Roberts told students during the tour they were able to meet and talk to people who had lived through the attack at ground zero.

“They had witnessed their fellow FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police brothers and sisters lose their lives protecting those in need at the hands of terrorism,” said Roberts.

They met Tim Brown, a member of the FDNY who lost 106 of his close friends and fellow firefighters on that day.

They also met Will Jimano who was buried alive for over 13 hours in rubble, not sure if he would ever see his family again.

“When they were done speaking to us they did the most moving thing I have ever experienced,” said Roberts. “They thanked us.

“They thanked us veterans for taking the baton after the attack and for going overseas to risk our lives to carry on the battle that had started on that fateful day. They thanked us for our part in the Global War on Terror.”

On their last day in New York City, Roberts said they had the privilege of meeting Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq War.

“After giving a heartwarming speech, he [Bellavia] looked at all of us seated in front of him and said something that I will carry with me forever,” Roberts explained.

Bellavia said, “Any country where there are more people trying to get into rather than wanting to leave, is a country worth fighting for.”

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