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Soldier makes it home in time for the holidays

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Sgt. Joseph Hardin of Hartselle is glad to be back home after spending the past 10 months in Kuwait and Iraq as an active duty member of the Alabama National Guard.
Hardin, 25, arrived at the Huntsville Jetport Dec.19 where he was greeted by his wife, Brandi, and several members of his and her families. His flight home originated in Kuwait Dec. 14 and included stopovers in Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Maine and Wisconsin.
"As the plane I was on approached Huntsville I looked out and saw the rocket at the Space and Rocket Center and I knew I was home," Hardin said. "My family is real close and being with them, especially at Christmas, is very special to me."
His happiness was shared by his wife of two years.
"It means a lot to have him home," she said. "I'm so happy; it's an answer to prayer."
Hardin and 31 other members of the Alabama National Guard were activated in October 2004 and attached to the 1158th Transportation Company, Wisconsin Army National Guard, which was under orders for duty in Iraq. They underwent special training at Fort Benning, Ga., and joined the 1158th at its base in Kuwait in February 2005.
As a mechanic Hardin split his time between working in a motor pool on base in Kuwait to pulling duty with truck convoys on mission in all parts of Iraq."
"Our mission was to deliver heavy equipment and supplies to the major logistical bases in Iraq" he said. "We'd also make pickups for return to our base. The missions usually lasted from 10 to 14 days.
"I spent last Thanksgiving at Ramadi near Fallujah," he said.
Hardin said the convoys he was on were hit several times by enemy fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
"We lost some vehicles and had four or five soldiers sustain injuries but no one was killed," he added.
"I was upset when I learned I was being activated and assigned to a company that was on orders to go to Iraq," Hardin said. "I thought, what did I do to deserve this? Then, my company commander told me I was eligible for deployment, was needed and was recommended for the job.
"I realized I was no different than all of the other men and women already serving over there. I did my job to the best of my ability and hopefully I was able to make a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people."
Hardin said in his opinion conditions have improved drastically for the Iraqi people in recent months.
"Kids are going to school, people are working and things are getting back to normal," he said. "I believe that within two years their military and police forces will be able to maintain security and the number of military personnel we have there will be greatly downsized."
A 1999 graduate of Hartselle High School, Hardin said what he missed most while being in Kuwait and Iraq was not being able to see members of his family in person and not being able to look outside and see green grass and trees.
Hardin said he's not sure what his present status is with respect to his local National Guard unit since it is currently on active duty in Georgia. "I'd like to be able to return to my job at Wolverine Tube and stay home," he said.