Like many members of the armed services, a second tour is just part of the job. For Army Specialist Jason Hildenbrand of Boyertown, the war was already in progress when he enlisted in 2004."My mom's the one who actually talked me into it with a recruiter. I have a couple ofcousins that were in [armed services] too," said Hildenbrand. "Hardest part is being away from my wifein Colorado. But my parents and two sisters are also in Pennsylvania."

Looking forward to handwritten letters with warm wishes and care packages full of civilian life amenities, Hildenbrand keeps his focus on missions rather than politics.

Living in barracks with his army unit, he finds some comfort in the friendships he has made through his new second family. Hildenbrand's only contact to the outside world is via the internet or over a cell phone.

"I like getting snacks; and movies help to pass the time. My job is not too dangerous. [As a mechanic,] I fix the vehicles and make sure they are mission capable," explained Hildenbrand.

According to Hildenbrand, it is rare to see soldiers from other countries in Iraq.

Thanks to the aid of interpreters, Hildenbrand and others are able to communicate with Iraqi soldiers.

"There is definitely progress being made [in Iraq] and we're doing a lot of good out here," added Hildenbrand.

In fact, Hildenbrand's efforts were recently recognized because of his talents.

As a mechanic, he had only a few weeks to fix a vehicle for its mission with shining success.

Hildenbrand's first-hand perspective may create a sense of comfort for his family but also reminds readers that the war has not ended.

Supporting local veteran's organizations is a positive way to help local soldiers when they return home.

On Monday, March 3, a veteran representative will be available at the Berks County CareerLink Office, 501 Crescent Avenue in Reading between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Donna Acker of the Governor's Veterans Outreach and Assistance Center will provide assistancewithdisability claims, records/medals replacement, and assistance with job search.

Acker will make applications for Cold War Recognition Certificate (active duty service anytime between the dates of Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 26, 1991.

Applications can also be made for the Korean War Service Medal if the Veteran qualifies (Veterans must have been in Korea during the war.)

American Legion Post #244 Commander Mark Alexander said, "A critical concern for veterans is that legislation needs to be updated to include Iraqi reservists and provide medical services for anindefinite period. Now, if you don't file a claim within two years then you can't."

The Sanatoga post helps to advocate for veterans' benefits and performs honor guard ceremoniesall over the region.

Post meetings are usually the fourth Thursday of the month.

For more information on helping the local veterans, call 610-326-1768.

Contact editor Antoinette Colon at 610-367-6041, ext. 255 or alcolon@berksmontnews.com.

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