In Germany, Saddam's capture sparks hopes for loved ones' return
December 15, 2003
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Lashundra Stephens looked shocked as she learned of Saddam Hussein’s capture while leaving the Grace Baptist Church on the edge of Baumholder.
Early Sunday afternoon, news of the fugitive dictator’s capture by U.S. troops was just filtering through Baumholder, home to the 1st Armored Division.
“I’m happy,” Stephens said uncertainly, trying to think through what Saddam’s capture meant. “No, I am very happy.”
But she wanted more details. “I’m the kind of person who needs to see the facts. I just need to see some proof,” she added.
Finally, excitement started to build in her voice. “Maybe there will be some resolution and maybe our soldiers will be back safely sooner than expected!” said Stephens, whose husband, Sgt. Phil Stephens, is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment of the 1st AD.
At this Army base where more than 5,000 troops are currently deployed to Iraq, the reaction to Saddam’s capture was a mixture of pride, relief, cautious celebration and a perhaps-unrealistic hope that it will bring local soldiers home faster.
Pfc. Kevin Thomas, 24, with the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st AD’s 2nd Brigade was in his barracks room when the news broke.
“The reports were iffy at first. Once they were sure, I was kind of like, ‘Wow!’ It was a rush,” he said.
When the news came on television at the Rod and Gun Club, “it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop,” said Brandt Gardner, pro shop manager.
Everyone was waiting for DNA confirmation that it was Saddam before celebrating, Gardner said.
Christine Burton said her first thought on hearing the news was, “I hope my husband is coming home sooner.”
Her husband, Sgt. Brian Burton, is in Iraq with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade.
Taking a few moments from Christmas shopping at the post exchange, Burton added that she hopes the Iraqi people — now assured Saddam is not coming back — “will get on with their lives,” with Iraq growing more stable as the standard of living increases.
If Iraq quiets down, maybe her husband — Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wayne T. Fussell — won’t have to return to Iraq in February as scheduled, said Becky Fussell, who was shopping with Burton.
Wayne Fussell, an enlisted terminal attack controller, helps soldiers coordinate airstrikes. Her husband was in Iraq for 3½ months, Becky Fussell said. “Hopefully, he won’t be going back now. God willing.”
All of the nearly two dozen people interviewed want to see Saddam tried either by the United States, by Iraqis or by a tripartite council of Americans, Iraqis and third party jurors to prove to the Iraqi people that Western-style justice works.
Whatever happens, though, all were convinced that having Saddam in U.S. custody will decrease violence in Iraq.
“It’ll help,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Goldstein, 25, back home on rest and recuperation leave with the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment. “The Iraqi people will realize he’s not coming back.”
Thomas, who’s in Goldstein’s squad, was more jubilant.
“There’s going to be some resistance. But it’s going to get much better, no doubt,” he said.
The capture of Saddam “is a good thing for the world,” he added. “Many countries have doubted we could do this, and now we’ve come through like [President] Bush said we were going to.
“We’ve proven we’re following through. We’ve proven we have the will to see this through, and the strongest force in the world.”