May 1, 2004 Two of the happiest people at Carnival's Adult Parade Saturday very well may have been Master Sgt. Melvin Arnold and his wife Darlene. Melvin Arnold was returning to his Virgin Islands home for the first time in seven years. He was also returning from a year-long tour of duty in Iraq which ended in February.
Arnold has served his country since 1981 right after graduating from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School he joined the Army.
Though his year tour in war-torn Iraq "was rough," Arnold said he plans to stay in the Army for at least another, seven years to complete his 30 years.
Arnold explained what it was like when he found out he was going to Iraq last year. "I felt like I had trained for a long time for the Super Bowl, and I was finally playing in the big game," adding, "You could train for your whole military career and never," actually go to war. "I looked forward to the challenge," Arnold said. "I was eager to go."
However, Arnold said "I was very happy to leave. I wanted to get back to my wife and family."
Arnold had been planning his trip home to the Virgin Islands from the time he arrived in Iraq. "I made myself a promise that if I should survive the war I was going to come home."
That nearly didn't happen. His flight out of Iraq was postponed, and that night two 125 mm projectiles landed on either side of his tent. "Luckily, neither one of them exploded or I might not be here today," Ardnold said.
Arnold served with the III Corps Support Command, whose job it was to supply the fighting troops with "all sorts of supplies from ammunition to food to water and fuel." The command was stationed in Balad about 70 miles north of Bagdad. "It was known as Camp Anaconda," Arnold said. "It was a life support area."
The first job was to bring or restore an infrastructure to the area, which included electrical work. The electricity came in handy in the 125-degree temperatures from May to August.
"There were a few days where the temperature reached 140 degrees," Arnold said. But, fortunately, Arnold's commanding general made it a priority that "all soldiers have air conditioning," with the belief that a happy soldier makes a better soldier.
Arnold said he had a different wish list in returning home his mother, Francis Arnold's, kallaloo.
"And when I got home she had that bowl waiting for me."
On Monday, Darlene and Melvin return to Wiesbaden, Germany, where he is stationed, and where they will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in September, hopefully, together.
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