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Citizen Soldiers Honored for Their Sacrifice

In West Los Angeles, dozens of Army National Guard members are recognized for their service amid some personal hardships.

September 11, 2006|Rich Connell | Times Staff Writer

Dozens of California Army National Guard soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks were recognized in a simple barracks ceremony Sunday in West Los Angeles.

As children, parents and spouses looked on in a cavernous bay at the 40th Infantry Division Artillery headquarters, uniformed guard members filed past their commanders to accept wood-cased U.S. flags and small plaques. Some had served multiple overseas tours.

The gathering, which finished with a family-style chicken dinner, was a show of pride and a reminder of the sacrifices made by citizen soldiers and those close to them.

Spc. George West said his yearlong deployment to Iraq, where he dodged roadside bombs while on fuel convoys, sharply cut his family's income. He continued to collect his regular pay as a Los Angeles County police officer, but lost thousands in overtime pay.

"It was a big setback," he said, "a couple of thousand a month."

Oralia Barbosa, a supply technician who spent a year at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, has a 14-year-old daughter.

"It was rough," she said. "I hadn't been away from her that long. I think it's tougher on [family members] than on us. We know what's expected of us.... They're left behind trying to make sense of it."

Sgt. 1st Class Jose Alvarez, a Van Nuys roofing contractor, volunteered to serve in Iraq, training units of the country's fledgling army.

"We really accomplished a lot," he said. "You want to do your part."

In all, more 21,000 California National Guard members have been deployed since 9/11, with most sent overseas.

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rich.connell@latimes.com

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