A Mix of Relief and Worry

Press Release | New York Newsday® | Reporter Michael Amon

Mixed emotions washed over Dimitry and Genny Popow as they watched Barack Obama’s speech last night . On one hand the couple was relieved. Their son, Marine Sgt. Andrei (Dre) Popow wouldn’t have to return to the seen of the hellish battle she fought in 2004 and 2005 during the Iraq Campaign’s darkest moments. But Sgt. Popow may see combat again – in Afghanistan – an effort Obama said wasn’t over and for which he has set no deadline for ending. “One stage is over, and for that we are happy, said Dimitry Popow, from his living room couch with his wife at his side. “But there is one more stage to go and more may come yet.”  “True happiness for us,” the father said, “will be when the last soldier leaves the Middle East.” The families tension was heightened when Dre re-enlisted in the Marines this year. He shipped out for Camp Pendleton in Southern California on Monday and is awaiting orders. I had been looking for work, but the economy kept plummeting, said Dre, an F.I.T. graduate  and graphic designer, in a brief interview from the base. “So I renewed my contract for a year.”

Seen Above: U.S. Marine Sgt. Dre Popow, during his combat tour of duty in Iraq.

Dre, who founded a nonprofit called Veterans Rebuilding Life, a network of Iraq War veterans who raise money and devote time toward helping children, said he could not speak about Obama’s speech because of military protocol. His parents said they were generally impressed with the range of topics the president covered, from his praise of the troops to his final emphasis on reviving the economy and supporting veterans coming home from war.

“We just want him to come home, No more battles.”

—Genny Popow, Sgt. Popow’s Mother

The couple watched the Oval Office speech on their flat screen television mostly in silence. They laughed when Obama noted he disagreed with former President George W. Bush about starting the war. Dimitry sighed, when Obama spoke of pressing ahead in Afghanistan. Genny shook her head when the president mentioned the more than 4,400 soldiers who died in Iraq and the trillions spent on the war effort. “As parents, we just want him to come home in a year,” she said. “No more battles.”