Major Dave Kleiber is due to come back from Baghdad any day. And for his wife, Sameta Rush, that day can't come soon enough. In fact, Sam Rush thought her husband might be on a military transport plane out of Iraq on July 16. However, the flight was canceled.
"I'm really surprised with my level of patience this week," Rush said. "Once he's on the ground in Colorado -- whew!"
Kleiber, a detective with the Steamboat Springs Police Department, is a Colorado Army National Guardsman with the Special Operations Command. Although his mission in Iraq is complete, his unit will be expected to finish its one-year tour of duty and will ship out for South Korea after a short time debriefing and repacking its equipment in Colorado.
Rush said Major Kleiber's unit essentially worked itself out of a job and that its base is closing down. During his time in Baghdad, she said, he has been shot at by small-arms fire and experienced mortar attacks. In a recent e-mail to friends and family, Kleiber wrote: "I've walked, worked and lived in the palaces that Saddam Hussein once lived in, witnessed his capture, and experienced the destructive fallout of 40 years of dictatorship on a society.
"I've seen all the evils that come with war. I have had friends die and be wounded over here. I have experienced the terror of being shot at from unknown locations, of mortar rounds falling within yards of me and hearing the 'buzz' of shrapnel fly by. I have felt the incredible frustration of watching a U.S. soldier die and knowing that there is nothing that I can do about it.
"I have also seen the joy and celebration in the Iraqi people as Saddam was captured and their country was returned to them. I witnessed their daily struggles to just try and have a normal live, get a job, feed their families. Amazingly there is still an optimism in these people that things will get much, much better ... and soon.
"I can only hope that my slight contribution to this endeavor will help make that possible. And in that comes the peace and security that we all seek."
Rush said she wouldn't know for certain when her husband is due back in Colorado until Kleiber calls her on the phone and says he is 10 minutes away from boarding the aircraft. He will have three to four days to unwind in Steamboat before heading to Buckley Air National Guard Base to prepare for the mission in Korea. Ultimately, he should be on his way back to Steamboat to stay about Sept. 15, Rush said.
She acknowledged that the past 10 months have been difficult. However, she said the Strawberry Park Elementary School community (she teaches third grade) has been her extended family and support group.
"You have some definite moments of high anxiety," Rush said. "But I've learned to cope with things I can't control. My third-graders have been so compassionate, and the parents, and my colleagues."
Steamboat residents can expect to see a large banner stretched over Lincoln Avenue early next week in anticipation of Kleiber's return.