In the heat and hostility
Tom and Beryl Buniger have a son in Iraq, in the line of fire.
Allen Buniger, an Edwards native who graduated from Eagle Valley High School in 1986, is supposed to be building roads and repairing other key facilities, but his work has been repeatedly interrupted by gunfire, his father says.
“Last time we talked to him, he said they’d been trying to build a road and they were getting shot at,” Tom Buniger says. “It’s just like Vietnam – you don’t know who’s shooting at you; you don’t know if it’s the same person that shook your hand last night. It makes for a bad situation.”
Allen Buniger, 36, has three children and now calls Wisconsin home. An engineer with the 104th Army Reserve, he was deployed to Iraq in June – after President Bush told the country major hostilities had ended.
“He said there are bullets flying past their heads all the time,” says his sister, Roxy, who works at the Avon City Market. “A guy in his group from Hayden was killed.”
The death of that soldier has unsettled the Bunigers, Roxy said.
“We didn’t know him personally – my brother did. My brother got rides home from this guy from Ft. Carson every once in a while,” Roxy Buniger says. “It’s a little too close to home. It makes you a little nervous.”
Allen has described life in Iraq as a drudgery, Roxy says.
“He was sent to build roads, schools – to try to get the country back up and running,” she says. “He said they bring him in to work on what he’s supposed to be doing for a couple of days, but then they send him out of (Baghdad) because it gets too dangerous.
“The process is really slow,” she says. “And then, he said, it’s hot.”
Allen, who works in construction when he’s home in Wisconsin, said it was 130 degrees last time he called, Roxy says.
“We do want to tell people, if they know guys or girls over there, they need chapstick really bad,” Roxy says.
“Proud of the troops’
The terrorist attacks and near-daily deaths of American troops in Iraq has the Buniger family doubting the Bush administration and the reasons the president gave for sending soldiers, Marines, sailors and pilots – including Allen – to the Middle East.
“You’ve got to be proud of the troops. This isn’t by any means their fault – they’re doing their job,” Roxy says. “But I think it’s very frustrating that we picked this fight and now we’re backing out of it. We really haven’t finished what we went in there to do.”
Americans weren’t told the truth about the invasion of Iraq, particularly with regards to the threat Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction, Roxy says.
“They’re just leaving them over there,” she says. “Military-wise, we’re really spread thin. The troops in Afghanistan are spread thin; the troops in Iraq are spread thin.
“I don’t like idea of sending guys into places and then up and leaving them without giving them the support to do their jobs,” she says.
“He’s doing his job’
Tom Buniger said he is proud of his son, despite having questions about the war itself.
“He’s over there, he’s doing his job – this is what he’s hired to do,” he says. “The only thing I don’t like about it is, he’s over there, and in my personal opinion our president wants the oil and he’s using our troops to get it.
“As far as him protecting our country,” Tom Buniger adds, “he’s doing his job and I think everyone should respect that.”
But, his father says, the war has yet to prove worth the lives lost.
“I’m the type of guy that believes if you go into a war, you’d better have a good cause,” he says. “And when you come out of the war, you ought to come out with something.”
Allen Buniger first joined the Marines in 1988. After four years he became a member of the Army Reserves, Roxy says.
“He likes the military – it’s good for him,” Roxy says. “It gives him a little direction, but I’m not sure (Iraq) is what he had in mind. We laughed, because he was so gung-ho, he wanted to go so bad.”
The family copes with anxiety by trying not to think about the dangers, Roxy says.
“My dad kind of takes it as it comes,” she says. “My mom gets a little more uptight when she hears bad news. But this is what he wanted to do and we’re behind him.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.