By Sgt. Emily Suhr
81st Brigade Combat Team
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire visited Soldiers from the 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard, serving in Iraq Tuesday and Wednesday.
During her two-day trip, Gregoire visited Soldiers stationed in Baghdad, Ramadi and Balad. Approximately 2,400 Soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard are serving at various bases across Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The purpose [for this visit]," said Gregoire," is to come here in person, see what it's like, have a much better understanding of what you do, and bring it back to the people of Washington."
While in Iraq, Gregoire got a chance to meet with hundreds of Soldiers from across Washington. She made a point to greet as many as she could individually, and offered support and kind words to gathered groups of Washington service members at each base.
"I come on behalf of Washington to say thank you," she said.
She brought news from home to the Soldiers of the 81st BCT, who have been mobilized since mid-August, of low gas prices and high snow banks.
"I have lived in Washington my whole life and never seen weather like this," she said.
She also addressed Soldiers questions and spoke frankly about the state of the economy in Washington and what that would mean for returning citizen-Soldiers. She spoke of stimulus packages and programs designed to help Soldiers find civilian careers, such as Helmets for Hardhats.
"We're going to get through it," assured the governor. We're going to recover."
Gregoire got a chance to see how the Soldiers lived and see first hand the things they are doing in Iraq. She expressed pride and thanks to her Soldiers.
"Thank you for your service to our country. We look forward to welcoming each and every one of you back home; and we look forward to you finding that when you come home, the welcome mat will be out. We will [assist you in finding] a job and we will take care of your loved ones while you're away."
She spoke of her husband and how excited both he and she were to welcome the 81st BCT home in August. She promised the Soldiers of Washington that their return from Iraq would be different from the reception the first gentleman received when returning from Vietnam.
"We'll make sure you get the respect, thanks, praise and honor you deserve," she said.