(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Morris and his wife, Jennifer, have three sons, Robert 4, Tyler, 3, and Ryan, 7 months. They are stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga. Jennifer and the boys are staying in Manila and Paragould close to their families while her husband is serving in Iraq.
Morris is a 2000 graduate of Manila High School. He joined the Army in 2002 and has served most of his time in Iraq. He was out of basic training for two weeks when he went to Iraq the first time for five months. He came home for Christmas and returned again for nine months. He is now scheduled for a 12-18 month deployment to Iraq.
Morris serves with the 3rd BN, 3rd Infantry Division, Task Force 115. His unit led the forces in the initial march into Iraq in 2003. His unit is a rapid deploy unit.
"We can be deployed anywhere in the world on an 18 hour notice," Morris said.
Morris's cousin, Tommy Morris, is also serving in Iraq and the two live next door to each other. They are both with 21 Bravo Combat Engineers. Tommy is a sergeant and Robert was recently promoted to the rank of sergeant, E-5. They are assigned to the FOB (Forward Operating Base) McKenzie, northwest of Baghdad.
Morris was there when the first shots were fired and has been in Iraq more than in the U.S. since his enlistment. Morris said it has not always been easy. He has seen things that he wished he had not. He has lost several friends to the war. As a matter of fact, he received word that one of his close friends (from Missouri) was killed while he was home on leave.
"The majority of people in the United States can't imagine how it really is," Morris said. "Americans should be grateful for their freedom. Until I was in Iraq, I did not realize how fortunate we had it here."
One of the major problems the military in Iraq is encountering are the roadside bombings. Morris said the insurgents can make an IED (improvised explosive device) out of anything using everything from a Pepsi can to a vehicle.
"Basically the insurgents are a small group of people," Morris said. "They hit and run. They won't stand up and fight. The military is not as much the target now as the Iraqi people volunteering for the military or police force."
Morris said more and more of the Iraqi people are volunteering to serve. He said the U.S. military's role is now changing.
"We patrol all the major cities and are training the Iraq military and police volunteers," Morris said. "Eventually, they will be taking over as the U.S. troops move out.
"The election went better than some thought it would. Things are getting better. We are building schools, supplying hospitals, and repairing sewer systems. Now there are more people for us than against us."
Morris said he does not want to criticize the media, but most of the time only the attacks and casualties are reported.
"There are good things happening in Iraq, also," Morris said. "Unfortunately, it does not get reported as often."
Morris said he loved the Army.
"Someone has to protect the country and it might as well be me doing my part," Morris said. "The only problem is being separated from my family."
Morris and his wife keep in touch through e-mail and have the opportunity to talk to each other almost every day. Morris said the living conditions for the military in Iraq are much better now.
The military life is no stranger to Mrs. Morris as her father is retired from the Navy. She said she does have a new respect for her mother realizing how difficult it can be at times, especially with small children.
"It is rewarding to see the Iraqi people experiencing freedoms they have never known before," Morris said. "Baghdad is a beautiful city. We are building trust with the people."
Morris left several pictures, stamps, money and artifacts from Iraq at his parents' home in Manila.
Morris also reminds the American people to remember the troops serving in Iraq. Letters, cards and care packages from home are important. The care packages are shared by everyone.
There is a lot of work left to do in Iraq and Morris said it is not a lost cause.
He said his two weeks home passed fast. He hopes to return between May and June for his next visit.