In honor of these fathers, sons, brothers and their families, 60 Minutes devotes its entire Memorial Day weekend broadcast to the 1st Battalion of the 133rd Infantry of the Iowa National Guard serving in Iraq. In a rare journalistic effort, correspondent Scott Pelley and 60 Minutes cameras follow the battalion and the families through nearly two years, exploring the American experience of war, in Iraq and at home.
The revealing and emotional chronicle of soldiers and families, will be broadcast this Sunday, May 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
National Guard and Reserves make up a third of the fighting force in Iraq and Afghanistan. 60 Minutes follows the farmers, mechanics, students, plumbers, electricians — everyday Iowans — who left behind their loved ones and answered the call to duty. The broadcast also covers the home front — the wives, mothers and children waiting for their loved ones to return.
60 Minutes captures the experience, from the beginning of the soldiers' journey, full of hope and determination, to the day-to-day realities and sacrifices of life at war, to the anticipation of going home — and the disappointment and anger of learning their tour would be extended.
Guardsmen Mike and Josh Ites, father and son, leave for Iraq with a shared attitude toward the war. After months of fighting, however, they no longer see eye-to-eye. Back home, their absence is taking a toll on wife and mother Brenda Ites, who is fighting depression. On the battlefield, thousands of miles away, Sean Rohret's Humvee is hit by the enemy's most common weapon, the IED, or improvised explosive device. Cameras catch up to him recuperating stateside. Scott Nisely and Kampha Sourivong weren't as lucky as Rohret: Cameras record their flag-draped coffins arriving at an Iowa airport.
Andy Wendling, a law student, withdrew from classes to serve with his younger brother Adam. Twin brothers Justin and Denver Foote, called "the feet" by their friends, serve as well — one stayed stateside for officer school while the other shipped out to Iraq. Says their mother, Tonya Rosol, "These are Iowa boys. They can depend on them. They're trustworthy. They work hard and they have so much pride."
"For a mother to send her child into harm's way is unnatural," says Rosol. "There are 100,000-plus mothers who are doing this…It's the hardest thing I have ever done."
Produced by Shawn Efran