Army specialist gets to know Iraqi people

Published 1:09 am Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Thorsby native knows what the citizens of Iraq are like more than most who join the military.

Army Specialist Justin Corn, who just returned home after a 15-month tour in Iraq, stayed in the Dialha province of Iraq located near the Iran border. During his stay, Corn and those in his unit lived in the village with the Iraqis and became friends with them.

“Their culture is very different from ours,” Corn said. “Their villages are like one big family.”

When you first meet an Iraqi family, Corn said you don’t just come in and start talking business. You have to get to know them first.

“Once they get to know you, then you can talk business,” he said.

One taboo in Iraq is talking to women. Corn said you just don’t do that.

“They’re real old school about that,” he added.

However, Corn said Iraqis are very intelligent.

“They are some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known,” he said.

Corn believes the U.S. is making a difference in Iraq. In the time he was deployed to Iraq, he saw a big difference in the people from when he arrived to when he left.

“They didn’t trust us when we got there, but they didn’t want to see us go when we left at the end of our tour. They had gotten used to us, and they wanted us to stay,” Corn said.

Corn is the son of Tommy and Shannon Corn of Thorsby. Although he is visiting his family here this week, he now lives East Bertram, Texas, where he recently got married to his wife, Ashlee.

Corn graduated from Thorsby High School in 2006. Although at least five of his classmates that year joined the military, that wasn’t his reasons for joining the U.S. Army.

His dad was in the Army, and Corn also liked that the Army would pay for school if he enlisted.

He remembered Sept. 11, 2001 and also watched CNN during the “shock and awe” phase of the Iraq war in 2003.

“I just really wanted to go,” Corn said. “It’s a decision I don’t regret, but it’s no place that I want to return. I’ll go back if they want me to.”

Corn has reenlisted for another four years. He is working toward a promotion to sergeant, and will be in Fort Knox, Ky., for the next two years where he would like to become training instructor.

After the two years, he doesn’t know where he is likely to be stationed. Right now, he wants to be a 20-year man in the Army and earn a government retirement at the age of 38.

The Iraq experience has impacted his life tremendously. His unit was hit several times by improvised explosive devices, which were hidden in potholes or buried underneath the road. That’s why he is edgy whenever he sees a pothole in the road here at home.

He also lost three good buddies. He has written their names on an armband he wears all the time.

He doesn’t take as much for granted anymore. Because he was in a remote location of Iraq, Corn and his unit didn’t have much contact with family and friends.

“Whenever we got to a base, everyone would run to the phone to get their five minutes to call our families,” Corn said.

During his tour, his family and his wife both sent him numerous care packages, which included personal items and snack foods.

“You don’t know just how much you miss that until you don’t have it anymore,” he said. “Some weren’t as fortunate as I was, so I shared with those who didn’t get any packages.”

Corn said he just thanked everyone back home for all of their prayers and support during his tour. Many churches kept him on their prayer list.

“I really appreciate it,” he said.