April 30, 2004 at 9:36 a.m.
Being based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky he saw several countries while deploying to Iraq-- traveling through military bases in Italy, Turkey and Crete. He spent time in Kuwait after his Iraq posting , noting it was “kind of strange” going from the desparate poverty in Iraq to the decadence of the world’s richest nation, Kuwait.
But, the Army M.P. was clearly enjoying his visit to his former elementary school most of all.
Dressed in his desert uniform, tall with buzz-cut hair, Wikelius was something of a celebrity to the Chisago Lakes Primary youngsters he spent time with April 22. He told them it was really a good feeling to be back home around kids like them. Iraqi youngsters were always hustling, trying to sell the soldiers something, he said.
Mrs. Anderson’s class asked about making friends in the Army and he said living and bunking right next to each other under those circumstances, you make very good friends. He told them he shared the letters and drawings the class had mailed to Iraq, with those friends.
On the flip side, Wikelius explained that the Iraq conflict was difficult because he wasn’t always sure who the enemy was, “...the guy who sells you something in the afternoon might be a terrorist at night,” he said.
He patrolled in a reinforced Hum-vee, with gun turret and the unit was car-bombed, but he did not sustain any injury.
The students laughed when he said soldiers nicknamed one of the towns where he was at (Karbala, a main Iraq battleground), “car bomb ah.”
Army police wore bulletproof vests that weighed 20 pounds and helmets all the time. The students wanted to know what soldiers did for playtime-- and he explained that the climate in Iraq is very hot, and soldiers didn’t really do much for extra activity.
He saw students squirm when he told them he did catch a scorpion once. And, when Saddam’s son’s palace was taken Wikelius got to spend time securing the fabulous building, where there were pool tables and other recreational things the soldiers used briefly.
The youngsters also enjoyed looking over the brightly colored Iraqi currency Wikelius passed around.
Did he see any girls in the Army? Yes.
A few youngsters asked about relatives and family friends serving and wondered if he’d met them? No.
Concluding his talk, Wikelius moved everybody over to the classroom map and showed where he was based and how he got there. There was a group photo taken and then the kids demanded autographs.