Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
GEORGE GROBUSCH IS a Monticello Middle School teacher who is currently in either Iraq or Kuwait with the U.S. Army. A reservist called up for duty, hes a combat engineer.
Family Making Do
By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO February 27, 2004 With the help of God, everything will be fine, said Marilyn Grobusch, the mother of a son whos currently waiting in Kuwait to be launched over the border in strife-torn Iraq.
George Grobusch, 36, graduated in 1984 from Monticello High School while in the 11th grade, and after serving in the U.S. Army in Germany for two years (where he met his wife Sabine), he began teaching 6th grade social studies at Monticellos Robert J. Kaiser Middle School.
After his discharge from active duty, SPC Grobusch signed up with the U.S. Army Reserves as a combat engineer with the 854th Engineering Battalion out of Bullville.
Then it was on to Orange County Community College for an associates degree, followed by a bachelors degree from SUNY New Paltz and later a law degree from Widener School of Law in Harrisburg.
Now the three-year veteran of Monticellos school system is headed for the dangerous sands of Iraq.
As far as we know, hes still in Kuwait, said Marilyn Grobusch.
Looking ahead to her sons unit crossing over the border into Iraq as part of the Operation Iraqi Freedom mobilization, she said, Im nervous about it for all the troops, but especially for my son, as hes my only child.
He said as soon as he gets there, the sooner hell be home, she added. Hes a very dear son, always there for all of us. . . . His father and I have always been proud of him.
When Grobusch was a six-month-old infant, his folks moved from Phillipsport to Wurtsboro. Save for his college and military service, he hasnt strayed far from home.
And if it were up to his mother, he would still be here.
Asked if the United States should remain in Iraq, Grobuschs mother replied, I dont think so. Once we got rid of Hussein . . . we shouldnt be there because were losing too many troops. Its not right.
What would she say to George if she could pick up the phone and talk to him?
Id tell him Im very proud of him and love him dearly, said Grobusch. I pray to God that all the troops stay safe.
Sullivan County Court Judge Frank J. LaBuda thinks of Grobusch as his younger brother, and for many years theyve been members of the Hunt Master Hunting Club. Grobusch is currently president of the local hunting club.
Major LaBuda served with distinction in 1991 during Desert Storm, as coalition forces ousted Iraqs former leader from the oil fields of Kuwait.
His 24-year-old son Kurt recently returned from fighting in Iraq. Waiting in the wings is Marc, 20, now in his third year studying engineering/ Army ROTC at Syracuse University.
It is uncanny now that I think back to last November at our hunting camp with George and Kurt quietly talking together in the corner by the woodstove, recalled LaBuda.
I think back to when Kurt was just a boy, and we spent one of our last nights together in our hunting cabin, also in November, before I left for Desert Storm, he added.
LaBuda said Grobuschs wife just missed a Saturday night, February 7 call from her husband letting her know he had landed safely in Kuwait after a 24-hour flight out of Fort Dix and was expecting to head northward towards Baghdad.
It all sounds so sadly familiar with the 5 a.m. calls we got from Kurt, he said.
Last year, Grobuschs unit was called up but never deployed overseas.
As a result, the quiet warrior was a bit reluctant to have any publicity this time around in case he didnt get sent into harms way. He declined media coverage of his going-away party in Monticello recently.
George is such a quiet, low-keyed fellow, said his hunting buddy. For the last several months, hes been on pins and needles, under the sword, waiting to get recalled. . . . [This time] he got called up two days before the opening day of [deer] hunting season.
Meanwhile, Sabine and their two kids 8-year-old Amber, a 3rd grader at Chase Elementary School, and 1st grader Josef, 5 wait for Grobuschs safe return from Iraq.
They went down to Fort Dix for a couple of days to see him Iraqi-bound on a rainy afternoon.
Grobusch was called up for 18 months, but they could make two years out of it, said his wife.
Its bad, said Sabine. Were having a hard time. . . . We really miss him, the kids especially. . . . Im scared to have him over there.
Whenever he gets the chance to wait in line for a 20-minute phone call back to the world, it costs the Grobusch family (and all the other troops) about 6 bucks a minute in overseas rates.
As U.S. military personnel are facing the killing zone in Iraq, the phone companies are making a killing off them to call loved ones back home.
I think thats crazy, said Sabine Grobusch. I think the phone companies should give the troops a break. . . . They should be able to call home for free.
In one of their brief but costly phone conversations (20 minutes x $6 equals $120), Sabine Grobusch said her husband said he finds being in a tent with women is annoying. . . . He told me they should have a tent of their own. . . . Theres nothing to do, and its getting on their nerves.
Should the U.S. still be in Iraq?
No, I dont think our men and women should be over there, she said. Im not crazy about those people. . . . Theyre so different than us.
Given the chance, what would Sabine Grobusch like her husband to read in the article about her quiet-spoken soldier husband?
Id like him to know that we love and miss him. she said. We hope he comes home safe, and well try to do the best we can without him until he gets back.
Democrat Photo by Nathan Mayberg
CHRISTOPHER HOLSHEK OF Highland Mills spoke to the Mamakating Seniors Club in Wurtsboro Wednesday. The group supported him and other Americans who have seen duty in Iraq.
From Iraq Duty
By Nathan Mayberg
WURTSBORO February 27, 2004 "There is no doubt in my mind that we did the right thing. . . . Did we do it the right way? . . . I have my own opinion on that."
Those were the thoughts of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J. Holshek, who recently came home from serving in Iraq. He spoke to the Mamakating Seniors on Wednesday at the Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro.
Holshek, 43 and from Highland Mills, has been a U.S. Army Reservist for nearly 24 years. He is a post-conflict operations consultant with Potomac Strategies International in Washington, D.C. Aside from Iraq, he also served oversees with Civil Affairs in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
He was the commander of the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion from January 2002 to January 2003, which was deployed to Kuwait in December 2002. They were the first Civil Affairs battalion to enter Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were the only Civil Affairs battalion to assist directly with combat and stability operations for the U.S. Marines and British troops, said Holshek, and they participated in approximately 1,000 projects throughout Iraq, including the restoration of hospitals, schools, police, sewage and electricity. They were sent care packages from many groups, including the Mamakating Seniors.
Holshek said the U.S. invaded Iraq to ensure that terrorists did not use the country and others like it as "nesting areas." He lamented that "we are doing a much better job than advertised." The news about the daily bombings overshadow the "day-to-day grind" the armed services are doing in order to repair public services and infrastructure of the country.
Two-thirds of the sewage produced in Iraq runs out in the street, according to the man recently nominated for colonel.
"The things that kept us going was the kids. They are the future," he said.
Holshek added that about 40 percent of the people living in Iraq are under 21.
They are also in dire poverty, for the most part, he said.
The Lieutenant Colonel envisioned a long road ahead for those who wish to see Iraq succeed as a unified nation. For one, he said the country "is a hell of a lot less ready than Germany and Japan were." Holshek laid the blame on deposed dictator Saddam Hussein for neglecting his people and services.
He pointed out that the country is divided among three different religious and cultural groups (Sunni, Shiite and Kurds). The Shiites are the largest group with 40 percent of the population. He estimates the size of Iraq to almost double in the next 20 years from 23 million to 40 million
Holshek believes that an open society in Iraq could revolutionize the Middle East. Already, he said, neighboring countries are starting to have public debates. Most of their societies have been ruled by dictators for centuries. No democracy yet exists in any of the Arab countries.
Holshek also contended that the daily attacks on U.S. soldiers and Iraqis were being coordinated by Baathists loyal to Hussein and foreign terrorists like Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist organizations and Al Qaeda.
As for weapons of mass destruction, Holshek said he could not answer that. However, he said he did not believe the war was done for WMDs.
Looking further into the future, he said he believed that the coming wars of the region will not involve oil but something more rare water. To which his father stated, "Lets trade them water for oil."
Holshek admitted that there was some distrust among Shiites about what the U.S. will do next. The U.S. leadership urged them to rise up against Saddam after the war. However, when they rebelled, America did not come to their aid.
One lady wanted to know if the servicemen were engaging in relationships with the Iraqi women. Holshek responded that there was no sex, liquor or drugs allowed by military law.
However, the United States military has been rocked by their own recent admission to 112 allegations of sexual misconduct against U.S. servicewomen based in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait over the last 18 months.
On a more positive note, Holshek will be relaxing the next few weeks, until he goes back to camp in Kentucky and await assignment. He expects it to be in Europe.
Holsheks father served 35 years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. "He had seen the elephant," said Holshek in reference to a book by Rudyard Kipling.
Holshek urged the audience of about 70 people to thank the Vietnam veterans as much as they have been thanking the present-day soldiers.
"They did not come home to a grateful nation," said Holshek.
Another man added that the Korean conflict was the same way.
John Holshek, father of Chris, is very proud of his son.
When he was made a 2nd lieutenant, I told him he would be a general," the elder Holshek said.
In April, the younger Holshek will appear in front of the Army Board for possible promotion to Colonel.