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Raritan Soldier Reports from the Front


Editorís note: This missive was taken from the website. The soldierís dad is Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano.

Dear Operation Shoebox,

I am PFC Francis Provenzano from Raritan, NJ. My home station is with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. The 172nd 4- 23 was deployed to Northern Iraq in August of 2005. We were due home (to Alaska) at the end of August 2006, but as most people know, we were extended for an additional 120 days and sent to Baghdad to help quell the sectarian violence. By the time we get home most soldiers from the 172nd will have been in Iraq for 15-16 months. Thatís a long time to be away from home and family. The men in our squad became family and we watch each otherís backs. When weíre not out on missions, we live in very close quarters in tents and we pass the time by lifting weights, telling jokes and talking about home. Some soldiers donít have family, and itís those soldiers who really benefit from Operation Shoebox. When boxes arrive for me, itís like Christmas here. Everyone has a box or two to open and we laugh a lot when everyone tries to barter one item for another. Laughing is important here. There is always something for everyone and nothing goes to waste. I know that elections are on Tuesday and everyone is talking about the war. (My dad is the Sheriff of Somerset County and he keeps me informed about whatís going on somewhat.) We donít see or hear much news here, but itís important for everyone to know that we are doing good things here and the regular citizens of Iraq are glad and appreciate that we are here, especially the children. When we first arrived in Baghdad, I was the driver of my squadís Stryker vehicle. As a driver, I wasnít allowed out of the vehicle and didnít have interaction with the people. Now, no longer a driver, Iím able to get out and mingle with the people. They are kind and generous.

When I told my mother I was joining the Army, she asked me why. She said that it wasnít a question of if I would be sent to Iraq, but rather a matter of when. She said that American Soldiers are Raritan soldier dying there and that some are losing limbs. She asked me if I clearly understood that it could happen to me. I said, ĒMom, when I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, I want to be proud of the face looking back at meĒ. Her response, ĒWell then, your Dad and I will support you 100%.Ē WE, the American Soldiers, are proud of what we see in the mirror each day and of the job that we are doing here. We are blessed to have the American people; particularly those who support projects like Operation Shoebox support us. Thank you and all the volunteers for all of your support. Hopefully, if things go as planned, Iíll be home with my family and friends in Raritan for Christmas.

PFC Francis J. Provenzano, Jr.


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