The Ottumwa Courier

833rd Engineer Company

January 24, 2008

833rd soldier receives award

Norton recovering from injuries received during Iraq deployment

BLOOMFIELD — There’s a part of Josh Norton that wishes he was in Iraq right now.

“My unit is back over there for a second time, and I’m not there,” said Spc. Norton, a combat engineer with the Iowa National Guard’s 833rd in Ottumwa. “It’s hard.”

Though he was seriously wounded in the unit’s first mission, Norton believes he could help the company during its current Operation Iraqi Freedom fight.

“I have experience. But [the doctors] say I’m undeployable at this time.”

Bombs, mortars and grenades were part of daily life during Norton’s time in Iraq. Doctors believe repeated blasts from nearby explosions led to his traumatic brain injuries.

As for what exactly happened in Iraq, the Pulaski resident has been hesitant to share. He said he doesn’t like when people casually ask him about the experience as if it were some sort of action movie. Details of his time in combat are personal — and deeply private.

“My experiences are my own,” he said.

But he did say many of the memories aren’t pleasant.

“What I saw over there, I wouldn’t wish on no one.”

He said now that he’s had some time to recuperate, he is able to share more about his deployment.

“As soon as we got there, we got hit,” he said. “That’s when I realized for the first time, ‘These guys are serious — they want every one of us dead.’”

And people did die. During his time in Iraq, he watched the life slip out of two different soldiers.

“It wasn’t like in the movies, where people look scared when they die,” Norton recalled. “Right before the end, they looked at peace.”

But for him, he said, it seems there will never be peace —at least not in the Middle East.

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