He shared stories of how he accidentally hit a camel with a Humvee and took a shower in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, where the shower knobs were encrusted with diamonds.
But even without his amazing tales of life in Iraq, Pfc. Gordon Vosberg, who was in Brainerd last week during a 15-day military leave, is considered a hero by many of the students he spoke to Friday at Lowell School.
"He's a hero because he's giving a lot of freedoms for the people who don't have that," explained Alisha Martin, a Lowell second-grader.
Vosberg, 22, an Army Reservist and college student who lives in Bismarck, N.D., is now stationed in Mosul, Iraq, with the 52nd Combat Engineer Battalion based in Fort Carson, Colo. He is the son of Betty Vosberg of Brainerd. His sister, Michelle Tollefson, is a second-grade teacher at Lowell Elementary School. Tollefson's second-graders have been sending cards and letters to her brother and members of his military unit during the past year he's been stationed in Iraq.
When Tollefson learned her brother was coming home to make a surprise visit to their mother's house, she asked if he would speak to her class. That one second-grade class turned into more than five classes that gathered to hear him talk about Iraq in the media center. When several teachers at Lowell learned that Vosberg was coming, they wanted their students to hear about his experiences, too.
Ciara Mitchell examined an Iraqi flag while fellow second-grader Derek Knoll looked on. The children attend Lowell Elementary School where Pfc. Gordon Vosberg spoke to students Friday. Vosberg brought the Iraqi flag from one of Saddam Hussein's palaces which his military unit helped to take over during the war.
Vosberg brought Iraqi and Kurdish currency to show students, and donated it to the school. He also showed students an Iraqi teapot and a small camel made of camel skin he purchased in an Iraqi market, as well as an Iraq flag he took from one of Saddam Hussein's palaces where he and his fellow soldiers were briefly stationed.
"Do you have a pool?," Vosberg asked the students. "Well, Saddam had a pool and we took it away from him."
Vosberg told students that while in Iraq he has to wash his clothing every three days by hand. He spoke of a little girl, perhaps about 9-11 years old, whom he and his military unit discovered lying on the streets. She had been starving. They fed her and took care of her until taking her to an orphanage. The little girl, whom they named Megan, lost both parents in the war, the soldiers later learned.
Vosberg told them how he was bit by a scorpion and had a scar on his hand to prove it. He also told them how he accidentally got his front tooth knocked out. He explained that he was just home for a couple of weeks -- he arrived home in North Dakota last Tuesday -- and was to return to Iraq Nov. 12.
"Your mom must be proud you survived," one boy told him.
Michelle Tollefson (left), a second-grade teacher at Lowell Elementary School, spoke about the Iraqi money her brother, Pfc. Gordon Vosberg, gave to the school on a visit Friday. Vosberg spoke to several classes about what he's seen and done while serving his country in Mosul, Iraq.
"So must Mrs. Tollefson," added a young girl.
"It's hard not to cry because he has to go back," Tollefson said, after her brother's presentation to her students. "It's nice for him to share other cultures, other ways of life. They finally get to put a face to the soldier they've been writing. They're very excited."
Tollefson said several of her students have an aunt, uncle or cousin serving in Iraq.
What Vosberg didn't tell students was that living conditions were terrible for him and other soldiers when they arrived in Iraq. Food was rationed to two meals and one liter of water a day in the unbearable Iraqi heat. Vosberg lost 52 pounds in Iraq, but his mother was happy to see that he has slowly regained a little weight. She had been sending him boxes of food.
"I'm worried, but proud," said Betty Vosberg. "If I could take his place, I would."
Vosberg said he experienced culture shock when he returned to the United States last week. Things he used to take for granted, like indoor toilets, seemed like a distant memory for him when he was in Iraq. He said it will be difficult for him to return to Iraq. His wife, Becky, was with him at Friday's presentation.
"It'll be very hard," said Vosberg. "But I already miss my guys. A part of me wants to go back but a major part of me doesn't want to go back."
Vosberg said he couldn't wait to eat pizza and go to a mall during his leave. He is expecting to return home in February or March and hopes to return to college to become a police officer.
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