A number of area soldiers who fought in the Iraq war and their loved ones welcomed Sunday's news of Saddam Hussein's capture with controlled glee.
Capt. Mohandas Martin, 34, the commander of the 319th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Augusta, said the capture represents a timely positive note for American military and Iraqi citizens.
"I think it's fantastic, and a morale booster for everybody. A big piece of a puzzle has been solved," he said.
"We needed this to see what we've been fighting for," Capt. Martin said.
"I heard on the radio at 5:30 this morning, and it gave me chills," said Jose Machado, 34, who also was deployed to Kuwait in February with the 319th Transportation Company to support U.S. forces in Iraq.
"I'm glad we've finally got him, and hopefully, it'll cease the need for more troops to be sent over there," said Mr. Machado, a native of Puerto Rico who lives in Hephzibah with his wife, Chely, and their three children.
Sherryl Mosley, the mother of James Mosley, who was deployed to Iraq with the 319th Transportation Company until September, said she normally awakens to the television each morning to hear the latest news from Iraq.
This Sunday, her son called her to tell her to turn on the television.
"I was ecstatic. I knew we'd get him; it was only a matter of time," she said. "The naysayers were just expecting too soon. And, as a matter of fact, we found him pretty quickly, considering the monumental task."
Army 1st Lt. Gary Powell Jr. got the word at about 9:30 a.m. while visiting his girlfriend in Dallas.
"We had about 13 phone messages from family and friends," said 1st Lt. Powell, a scout platoon leader who will return to Tikrit after a two-week leave during which he visited his parents in Augusta. His father is Col. Gary Powell Sr., of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
"I was relieved. It's great news," said Lt. Powell, 24, a member of the 4th Infantry, the unit that captured the Iraqi leader. 1st Lt. Powell is to return to Iraq on Tuesday morning.
Col. Brad Owens, currently on active duty in Iraq as commander of the South Carolina National Guard's 122nd Engineer Battalion, said he heard of the former Iraqi leader's capture after returning from the Saudi Arabian border to his base early Sunday.
"Obviously we all think it's great," Col. Owens said in an e-mail from Iraq. "It makes you feel even more that you are on a winning team."
He said some Iraqis he has spoken with were under the impression that Saddam already had been taken captive by the United States, so seeing pictures of the former dictator in U.S. custody will add credibility to the military's efforts.
"This also validates that we, the U.S., will hunt down these people that are in our way of bringing democracy to this country," he said.
Similarly, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Stribling said in an e-mail from Iraq that Sunday's "exciting" news was a relief for him personally. Saddam's capture could be tremendous for the future of Iraq, he said.
"This tyrant has been in charge for 35 years or so, and he was a true terrorist. People here were truly afraid of the man and his goons," Sgt. 1st Class Stribling said. "As long as he was at large I think the people here thought there was a possibility that he would be able to muster forces and maybe even return to power one day. No more. Iraq will never be the same."
Staff writer Johnny Edwards contributed to this story.
Reach Dena Levitz or Timothy Cox at (706) 724-0851.
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