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thedrifter
03-20-08, 06:07 AM
A military town is not so impressed
Jerry Allegood, Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE - The signs and homemade banners welcoming Marines and sailors from a recent deployment make it clear this military city wants its troops home safe.

But that doesn't mean people automatically approve of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's promises to begin pulling troops out of Iraq.

"That's a tall order," said Tommy Baggett, a barber in Jacksonville who shears plenty of Marines. "I don't think we're ever going to be out of Iraq."

Baggett said a pullout would take time because the war has destroyed Iraq's infrastructure.

In Wednesday's speech in Fayetteville, home to the Fort Bragg Army post, Obama vowed to end the war if he is elected and to begin removing at least one combat brigade a month. He said he would leave counterterrorism units to respond to threats and enough troops to guard the U.S. Embassy.

His speech was not necessarily the talk of the town. Most televisions in restaurants and businesses were tuned to sports programs.

Jacksonville is home to thousands of Marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, many of whom have served tours in Iraq. Hundreds who trained at the huge base have died.

Still, in a city where deployments are as common as college semesters, there is a matter-of-fact attitude about a war that has become increasingly unpopular in civilian communities.

Alexander Hernandez, a Navy corpsman who just returned from Iraq, said U.S. troops have stabilized once-dangerous areas including Anbar province. He said the United States military has accomplished good things for Iraqis.

"We're already there," he said. "We need to finish what we started."

Beth World, wife of Marine Cpl. Frank World, bid her husband goodbye recently for his second tour in Iraq. Although she supports her husband and his recent decision to re-enlist for four more years, she said she wants him to come home as soon as possible.

"I think we've been there long enough," said World, who supports Sen. Hillary Clinton.

jerry.allegood@newsobserver.com or (252) 752-8411

Ellie