IRAQ: War as a family affair
Marine Sgt. Brian Mendez, 24, has been in some of the worst fighting of the Iraq war and has the Purple Heart and Combat Action Ribbon to prove it.
"Fallouja was more gunfights, Ramadi was more [roadside bombs]," Mendez, a scout-sniper, says matter-of-factly.
In 2006, Mendez's wife, Laura, 22, announced that she wanted to enlist in the Army to fulfill a dream she'd had since the two were high school students in Torrance, Calif. In the last year, the couple has only spent two 15-day leaves together.
Now an Army private, Laura Mendez deployed in October to Balad as a convoy driver. In January, Mendez deployed with the 5th Marine Regiment. Their daughters, Haylee, 5, and Kylee, 2, are staying with her family in Killeen, Texas.
A few days ago, Laura Mendez suffered a concussion when her Humvee struck a roadside bomb. Her husband is set to fly to Balad on Monday to be with her as she recuperates.
The couple will probably talk of the future. They've bought a home in Moreno Valley and look forward to the day when their Iraq deployments are over and she's stationed in Barstow and he's at Camp Pendleton.
Despite their injuries, and separations, Iraq has been good for them, Brian Mendez says. "We're far away," he says, "but the experience brings us together."
— Tony Perry in Al Asad