Third Time Around In Iraq

It's 5 a.m., and while most of America is still asleep, Army Staff Sgt. Rob Streeper and his family are packing for his third tour in Iraq, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Last time, his wife Wendy cried for seven straight days.

"I only cried two times this week, not seven," Wendy says, laughing.

For the Streepers' 7-year old daughter, Paige, there was no humor, just heartache.

"I'm sad that my daddy's leaving," Paige says.

She's not alone. Sgt. Streeper is part of a 145-person advance team from Fort Stewart that left for Iraq last Wednesday.

At 7 a.m., each soldier was issued a gun, gear and then a pep talk.

"Your country loves you, and appreciates all the sacrifices you make everyday," Col. John Charlton says.

Charlton is Streeper's commanding officer, and knows about sacrifice.

The first time the Third Infantry division stormed into Iraq in 2003, the mission was clear: Take Baghdad. However, there was uncertainty how hard the Iraqis might fight and whether Saddam use chemical weapons?

"We didn't know if the Iraqis would be cheering us or shooting at us," Charlton says.

By the second tour in 2005, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Insurgents were the new threat; IEDs was the new acronym.

"This third time around, I think we're back at that uncertainty stage," Charlton says.

Charlton and many of his soldiers have spent two years away from their families. Now they're going for 12 more months.

"Any time you have to say goodbye to your family and you know it's going to be a year, it's really tough," he says.

At 11 a.m., it was time for the long goodbyes. While the majority of the nation may oppose this war, duty still calls.

"I'm so American, like apple pie. I miss the food, the people, you know? The air," Streeper explains.

For the soldiers, their sense of duty makes them able to keep going back time and time again.

"Where should the soldier be when the nation is at war? On the battlefield. Is it hard? Yes. It's not new to being a soldier though," Charlton says. "If this war lasts 10 years, then the U.S. Army has to be prepared to fight for 10 years."

At 2 p.m., it was wheels up ... and prayers lifted. The work and the worrying begins.

  • Melissa McNamara

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