Dawn Hess said she is glad she will not be getting any more mail from the Mideast. Her daughter, Michele -- featured in this March's story "Letters from Kuwait" -- has returned from her tour with the Army Medical Corps in Iraq.
Dawn and Michele, along with other family and friends, gathered at Chili's Restaurant last week for a reunion.
Dawn, who works for Chili's, was bursting with excitement while Michele shared some of her experiences.
"In Kuwait, we just waited," she said. "We were right at the border."
She said they cheered when they saw the missiles being shot into Iraq to clear the way for them to move into the country, but they also were frightened.
"But there is nothing you can do about it, so when they say roll, you just go."
She said it was a desolate place and the heat and dust were awful.
"You were so hot and sticky all the time, you didn't want to put any lotion on," she said. "One day we were sitting outside the tents and the sky started turning red. It was weird, but it wasn't windy."
Michele spent time in Baghdad treating the injured.
"Some of the Iraqis were so bad, all we could do was give them morphine and let them die," she said.
Dawn's favorite story is about her first phone call from her daughter when she returned from the Mideast.
Dawn had been told to expect Michele around Aug. 26. She was so excited, she kept calling her daughter's base to see if her plane had arrived. Michele's travel plans were changed a couple of times, and she did not return to the U.S. until early in September.
"When I got in, they told me I needed to call right away. Everybody there knew her," Michele said.
"As it turned out my son, Matt, did not have to go to Iraq. He went to Montana instead and fought fires," Dawn said. "He also got engaged and was promoted to sergeant. When I told Michele he had been promoted, she replied, ‘But he didn't go to war.' I can't believe how competitive they are!"
Her younger son, Mark, also was thinking about joining the service when he finished high school this spring.
"Michele talked him out of it," Dawn said.
"He needs to get his degree and then go in. He'll go in as an officer then," Michele said.
Michele has another year to serve before completing her full tour. She said she does not know yet if she will re-enlist.
Dawn said Matt will get married at the end of the year, then he and his wife are going to Germany for three years.
The family will have a big reunion for Christmas before everyone heads into their new lives in the new year, Dawn said.