Wednesday, January 09, 2008

TOP STORY>>Soldier says he’s ready for second deployment

Leader Staff Writer

Spc. George Hendricks of Searcy, a member of the 39th Infantry Brigade, was among those deploying in recent days for training in Mississippi before going to Iraq.

This will be the second tour for Hendricks, who is this reporter’s brother.

“I really didn’t expect it to be as violent as it was,” Spc. George Hendricks recalls of his first deployment. “I have a better appreciation for my home country now.”

In January 2003, 21-year-old Hendricks enlisted in the Arkansas National Guard. Just over a year later, he began his first deployment as a filler for Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Brigade. The battalion was stationed at Ft. Apache in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. Charlie Company was responsible for patrols, raids and observation points.

During combat operations on Nov. 20, 2004, one day after turning 23, Hendricks was struck in the leg by shrapnel. Last January, Hendricks was presented with a Purple Heart for those injuries. He has also received several unit and individual awards and merits.

On March 19, 2005, members of the 39th Infantry Brigade arrived back in the U.S. at Ft. Sill, Okla., where family and friends waited to greet them. Hendricks returned home with the rank of specialist.

“Places with crowds, and having a lot of people around would make me nervous,” he said when he first came home. He also said that adjusting to driving here again was hard “because of the way you had to drive there.”

Monday morning, Hendricks was one of many soldiers who boarded a bus leaving Forrest City for Camp Shelby, Miss. Soldiers will spend the next several weeks training before departing for Iraq.

“I’m more relaxed about this deployment than the last,” he says. “I was ready. I expected it, I guess.”

Hendricks will be returning with a handful of fellow veterans from his first deployment.

“I wouldn’t feel right about them going without me,” he says.

Hendricks transferred from his original company, Headquarters Company out of Searcy, to Charlie Company based in Brinkley and Forrest City, so that he could continue to serve with those he deployed with to Iraq.

Hendricks says “being too far from family” is the hardest part of being deployed, but joining the Guard was the best decision he has made for himself.

Since his first deployment, Hendricks has earned an EMT certification. He plans on finishing paramedic school when he returns from his current deployment.