It’s the best present in the whole wide world’

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 15, 2003

Otis Washington, left, the commander of Mississippi’s Veterans of Foreign Wars’ fifth district, talks with fellow veterans Everett Dickson, center, and Ben Blansett, both of Vicksburg, about the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The veterans were in the city Sunday for a district meeting.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

(12/15/03)Hours after Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, John Elfer of Vicksburg was on a plane, headed back to Baghdad.

The Army captain who was deployed for a one-year tour in February was home last week. Now, his family said Sunday, they don’t know when he’ll come back home.

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“His daughter (a preschool student) asked him this morning if he’d be home soon,” said Elfer’s father-in-law, Ben Blansett. “We hope he is.

“He’s a good man, a good father, and we’re glad to have him in the family. We need him to be home,” Blansett said.

Blansett, a veteran of the Korean War, sat with others at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2572 as they watched television coverage of Hussein’s capture.

“We’ve been listening to this all morning,” said Korean War veteran Everett Dickson.

Another Vicksburg resident who’s home from his overseas tour is Ray Moxley. He served from March to May in Germany with the 412th Engineer Command.

Moxley saw the news on the Internet.

“He looks pretty haggard,” Moxley said of Hussein. “Like a man down on his luck.

Most admitted that the capture was a moral boost for the U.S. troops, the United States and the people of Iraq.

“I think it frees the Iraqis of this thing they had hanging over their head, that if they were against him, and he came back to power their families would be assassinated or disappear,” said Ron Roberts, a Vietnam veteran from Mendenhall. “Now maybe they can speak out in favor of a new Iraq.”

Blansett echoed Roberts’ opinions.

“Maybe things will be better now,” he said. “We’re still going to have some repercussions for a little while, but now the Iraqis will not be afraid of him coming back into power.”

Some were hopeful that Hussein’s capture would reduce attacks on American soldiers in the country.

“This is certainly a symbolic victory. How much control over the remaining resistance he had remains to be seen, but time will tell,” Moxley said.

All agreed on one aspect of the capture: It was a great Christmas present for the troops.

“Oh, the best in the whole wide world,” Dickson said.