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Voyageur's Best Features of 2006

Returning from duty

Returning from duty
The Mowers brothers, Seth, Trent and Trace, along with Robbie Larson are welcomed home by friends and family
by John Grones  |  March 28, 2006

A send-off for four young men from Cromwell was a mere 559 days ago. Not that long for the average person living a busy life in America. For four young men, Robbie Larson, Seth, Trent and Trace Mowers, a trip to the Middle East to serve their country was quite long.

On Sunday, March 19, Bethany Lutheran Church in Cromwell held a welcome home celebration for the safe return of the boys. Several members of the community spoke on behalf of the boys and their commitment to our country.

High school principal JoAn Bloemendaal-Gruett shared how she watched these young men grow up and graduate from Cromwell High School. “I truly appreciate the commitment you guys have made to our community,” she said. “How blessed we are that all four returned safely.” 

Bill Switzer felt compelled to speak at the celebration. He shared there were many in the congregation who prayed for the boys’ safe, uninjured return. “As you proceed in your lives’ endeavors,” said Bill, “I pray that all the safety influences you’ve encountered will help you to trust in yourselves.”

Bill concluded by saluting the four boys and stating they truly are honorable men.

All four men signed up for the service around the same time (spring of 2002), and they were all a part of the Echo 216 ADA group out of Cloquet. They left home in August and spent six months training at Fort Bliss, Texas, followed by a trip to Kuwait in early January. By the end of January, Trent and Trace found themselves in Dora, Iraq providing security for an oil refinery and training Iraqi soldiers. Robbie and Seth split off and went to Saudi Arabia where they provided security for high ranking officers.

Trent and Trace Mowers

Twin brothers, Trent and Trace Mowers, are 2003 Cromwell High School graduates. They both  wanted to go into the service since they were young. Trent remembers when he was in junior high school and he wanted to join the Marine Corps. “My mom and dad wouldn’t sign the early release forms,” said Trent. “They said they would sign the papers if I went into the National Guard.”

The Mowers family felt this would be a better route. Looking back, the boys are happy with their decision. “If I could turn back the clock, there is nothing I would change about it,” Trent added. “Over in Iraq there are some things the average person shouldn’t experience, but I think it was all a good experience. If I had the decision to volunteer and go over again, I would do it.”

Trace agreed. He shared that in addition to training Iraqi soldiers, their group conducted security patrols in Baghdad. Not really knowing when and where something would occur created the most anxious moments. Trace concluded that being in a whole new environment was interesting and exciting at times.

As for the disposition of the Iraqi people, Trace explained that 95 percent of the people are glad the American forces are there. “The people in the area gave us a lot of support,” he said. “There is just a small percentage of people who don’t believe another religious group should be there.”

Trent added it is important for the troops to be Iraq. “All the troops over there are doing an important mission,” said Trent. “We are trying to help the Iraqis out and make it a better country as a whole... we are trying to end terrorism over there.”

“Some of the Iraqis we worked with day in and day out are very happy to have us there,” Trent concluded.

Trace concluded by stating the media doesn’t show the good that’s being done. “We try to do a good deed every day. Providing medical supplies, bringing doctors in or... giving away school supplies... just the help that we provide.”

Overall, the twins shared they appreciated the coming home celebration and all the cards which were sent over to Iraq. “We shared everything with all the troops over there. I just want to thank everybody for everything they did,” added Trent.

Seth Mowers and Robbie Larson

Seth Mowers, a 2000 graduate of Cromwell High School and the older brother of Trent and Trace, shared he actually became interested in joining the Army National Guard after his brothers decided to join. “I was going to school at the time and I was having a hard time paying tuition,” said Seth. “I looked at all the great benefits they had and I decided if they are going to join, I might as well join, too.”

Looking back, Seth is happy about the financial benefits of his decision, but he didn’t really enjoy his deployment. “It wasn’t a very good time in my life,” he shared. “I don’t think I could go through another deployment.”

He did conclude it was a good decision and it was a chance to serve his country.

Like Trent and Trace, Robbie Larson, a 2003 Cromwell graduate, also knew he was going to serve his country at an early age. “My mom has pictures of me in military fatigues, and the stories they tell are that they knew before I did that I would serve,” said Robbie.

His parents also wouldn’t sign the early release papers. They, too, wanted Robbie to see what the military was all about by joining the National Guard.

Seth and Robbie split from the larger group Trent and Trace were in on January 26, 2005. Their mission was in Saudi Arabia.

“We were force security,” he said. “Mainly we guarded high ranking officials in all branches of service. Their mission was to train Saudis on American military equipment, so we protected them as they trained soldiers.”

Seth shared his experience was much different than his twin brothers’. Seth was encouraged to hide from the public and not be recognized as an American. There were some anxious moments. “I was stationed at the main gate, and we were receiving bomb threats,” he said. “For a couple of weeks I was pretty nervous that we were going to get hit with a bomb and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

Overall Seth’s job was pretty monotonous and he sat for many hours.

Robbie can relate. His job was also monotonous. “I was on the same mission as Seth, but I had a different job,” said Robbie. “I spent most of my time in a guard tower. I worked the night shift.” The hardest aspect of Robbie’s job was staying awake for 12 hours.

Both Robbie and Seth have their opinions of America’s involvement in the war. Seth has gone back and forth and he shared that he can see both sides. “I can see how it would be nice to bring all of the soldiers and just get out of there, but then I can see where we are doing some good.” Seth feels it is a tough political position.

Robbie feels like the military is getting some things accomplished. “We’ve done a lot of good things,” he said, then added that he watched a video of Saddam’s torcher tactics. “It is easy to see why we are there. It may have not been the exact time to do it, but it had to be done.”

In conclusion, all four men expressed that they really appreciated everything everybody did back home. Seth shared that the letters and the care packages for the soldiers were very important. “It really made my day when I got a letter,” he concluded. “It really lifted me up and I would have a smile on my face the whole day after receiving a letter.”

This article first appeared in the March 28 issue of the Voyageur Press.