LaPlace soldier proud of Iraq mission

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 7, 2005



LAPLACE – William Millet of LaPlace is one of the United States soldiers who puts a positive spin on the U.S. involvement in Iraq, unlike much of the national attention questioning the decision to be there.

As a Louisiana National Guard Reservist, who just returned to the River Region after serving for a year in Iraq, Millet can speak from experience.

And listening to him talk makes it clear that not everyone questions the United States mission there.

“Weapons of mass destruction or not, I feel like we had a moral responsibility to go there and free the Iraqi people,” he said. “It’s like if you saw your neighbors house being robbed, you have a moral obligation to try and do something.

“In Iraq I have seen mass graves, and thousands of bodies. I have seen people trying to identify their family members just from the clothing they wear. And I have seen that the people there no longer live in fear since we got Saddam Hussein out of there. There is no doubt in my mind a large majority of the people in Iraq are glad we came, and got rid of Saddam,” he said.

And even though Millet has finished his one year of duty there, he re-enlisted for six more years with the National Guard, knowing he may very well be sent again.

“We have to make sure that cancer doesn’t come back to those people, so we have to stay and finish the job,” he remarked. “If the new government fails, we will be to blame, so we have to help those people set up a government that keeps them free.”

Millet, now age 30, said the experience in Iraq “made me grow up a lot,” and he is now so impressed with the military that he added the six year enlistment even though he could have been finished serving.

For that matter, the lifelong LaPlace resident said he had actually passed the date when his initial six years was finished when he was called up.

“My enlistment ended on January 16, but our unit was activated for service in Iraq in

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December of 2003. So that meant they had me and I was going,” he said. “But to me, the year went by fast and I feel like we did so much good there. Initially it scared the hell out of me to think I would go, but the stay wasn’t really bad at all. The military makes it as bearable as possible. We even had a movie theater on our base, and of course there is access to computers and free Internet to communicate back home as much as we wanted.”

Millet had an interesting job with his 1-244th CAB unit, flying Black Hawk helicopters, where he was the crew chief. His responsibilities included manning weapons, handling personnel and cargo, as well as maintenance.

“We transported Saddam one time, and we transported Rumsfeld and Colin Powell all over,” he said. “And even though we were a reserve unit, we went over there with the intention of setting a standard for efficiency, which we did.”

He also served as the chaplain’s assistant, meaning he had to protect the chaplain wherever he went in the area. For that matter, the chaplain was a St. Joan of Arc former priest in Father Walter Austin, who is a lieutenant colonel in the service.

“We were kept so busy with missions, and we had plenty of times that I thought my life was in danger. But our unit was so good, we only had one crash in 12 months and no fatalities, so I was really proud of the work we did,” he said.

Millet was a Jesuit High School graduate in 1992 and went to LSU for four years. However he joined the National Guard in 1997 and admitted he never thought in a million years he would go to war.

He has an interesting personal story that went with his trip as he had just resumed a friendship with a girl in the area, and was interested in dating her before he had to leave.

“When I came home for my leave in the summer we ended up seeing each other every day. And then she sent me e-mails and letters all the time I was back there. It really helped a lot,” he said.

Upon his recent return, the romance has gotten more serious and he said the two have discussed plans of marrying.

Even though he calls the departure for Iraq “bad timing” in his life, he now has a different take on it.

“The tour of duty in Iraq turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. I grew up a lot, and now I find that everywhere I go, someone thanks me for serving there,” he remarked.