"Being on the phone with the bomb sirens going off — it’s worn me out," Gerry said describing calls from her fiancee, Dave Raschen.
The couple-to-be got a break from the stress of war this week, at least temporarily. After serving another two-month combat support mission in southern Iraq, Raschen and about 40 other Nevada Air National Guard troops returned to Reno safely on Wednesday. It was Raschen's second deployment to Iraq.
Non-combat missions to Iraq are anything but safe or comfortable, Gerry said. Raschen and his flight crew were attacked both in the air and on the ground. They would fly only at night when it was safer but their base was no safe haven, either.
"Three weeks ago, a homemade explosive device landed in the base about 20 yards from his tent," Gerry said. Primitive missiles with timers were aimed at the base and launched from nearby neighborhoods. Attacks on the base were more frequent during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan but most of the devices missed their target.
Many details of the mission could not be shared — not even with loved ones.
"There's still certain things he can't tell me," Gerry said. When Raschen was in a bad mood but couldn't talk about it, Gerry said it was hard to empathize.
Raschen is returning to a full-time firefighting job at the Air Guard base in Reno. Gerry hopes he doesn't feel obligated to volunteer again.
"They ran out of guys so they had to step up to the plate," Gerry said. Raschen had volunteered to relieve troops who had already served on multiple missions.
Gerry said getting over the stress and back to a regular sleep schedule takes time for returning troops. To help them unwind, Gerry and Raschen are planning to take a Mexican holiday with friends.
More than six groups of airmen were rotated into the "combat theater" during the year-long mission. The troops are members of the Nevada Air National Guard's 152nd Airlift Wing and 152nd Intelligence Squadron. Individual airmen continue serving in Iraq but more could be called up again later this year.
On Thursday, Gerry and Raschen were preparing for a shopping trip.
"Things are getting back to normal but it takes time," Gerry said.