June 2009

IBEW On Duty
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Surviving Rocket Attack, Member Soldiered On

Charlie Coleman understands the values of perseverance and resolve. That’s why after surviving a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a job site last year in Hawija, Iraq, the 22-year IBEW member was undeterred from his mission to continue rebuilding the primary school that he and his squad had labored on in the tumultuous city north of Baghdad.

“It was chaotic, but I knew what I had to do next,” said Coleman, staff sergeant with the 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion and a Middleton, Mass., Local 2321 member. “I just rolled up my sleeves and set my mind back on the job.”

None of Coleman’s fellow troops—nor the scores of Iraqi children nearby—were injured in the attack, though it left a strong impression on the soldier.

“Returning to the school the next day showed the community something,” Coleman said. “It sent a message—we’re not giving up on you, and we’re willing to do what it takes to make sure you have the basic necessities of life.”

For nine-and-a-half months last year, Coleman committed himself to rebuilding the battered Iraqi infrastructure in cities near Forward Operating Base McHenry, 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk. A 16-year U.S. Army reservist and Verizon employee by day in the U.S., Coleman’s skills as both a soldier and a technician were valuable on assignments at area schools, hospitals and other sites.

“Charlie was very committed to serving the people of Iraq,” said Local 2321 Business Manager Ed Starr. He rallied local members to support the Coleman family—including Charlie’s wife and two young boys—by raising about $6,000 for the household. Members also sent Coleman care packages and letters to bolster his spirits.

“Overall, I would say the experience was positive, but I was glad to return home—missing my family was the hardest part,” Coleman said. His unit returned to the states last November, just in time for Thanksgiving.

For his service, Coleman was honored at the local’s March meeting with a proclamation from the Massachusetts state legislature, as well as a plaque from Sen. John Kerry. Other letters of thanks rolled in from IBEW leaders throughout the Northeast.

“I have a lot of appreciation for my co-workers, my family and my union for supporting me while I helped serve my country in a time of need,” Coleman said. “The Brotherhood really lives up to its namesake.”

Middleton, Mass., Local 2321 member Charlie Coleman spent most of 2008 serving in Iraq.