Sgt. Waylon L. Murphree helped give America the mother of all Christmas presents.
The soldier from Grovetown with McDuffie County ties was part of the unit in the Fourth Infantry Division that captured Saddam Hussein outside of Tikrit, Iraq on Dec. 13.
Sgt. Waylon L. Murphree
Sgt. Murphree grew up in Grovetown where his mother still lives. His sister, Bonnie Randolph, lives in Boneville and works at Dearing Elementary School. He was in town this week on temporary leave from the service.
"I'm really lucky because I got to come home on Christmas leave," he said. "Most people are still stuck there. They haven't gotten to see their family in almost a year."
Because of Army regulations, Sgt. Murphree cannot talk about the specifics of the operation that nabbed Mr. Hussein. But much of his 11 months in Iraq has been spent in Osha, a small town outside of Tikrit near where Mr. Hussein was born and later captured.
"It's great. The people know we're not playing now," Sgt. Murphree said of Mr. Hussein's capture. "Most of the people down there think that Saddam is the best thing since sliced bread. ...We're helping rebuild their houses and stuff like that, and that stuff doesn't matter to them."
The military is still under attack in pockets of the country. People still loyal to Mr. Hussein could be reacting to his capture Sgt. Murphree said.
"I know that his loyalists are probably going to start doing uprisings," he said. "Now we have him, so all they can do is start showing their butt a little bit. ... When they do something that hurts a soldier or kills a soldier or just harms our life in any way, then we bring down the thunder."
Sgt. Murphree said that he thinks this will be the beginning of the end of the war. He also said terrorism will probably continue in small ways throughout the country.
"Terrorism, you're never going to be able to get rid of it 100 percent. It's always going to happen because there's always going to be somebody out there that has a different view of the way it should be," he said. "Once we get rid of Saddam ... it's going to keep going. It's just a matter of time before the next guy shows up."
Much of the problem with uprisings, riots and the Iraqis' hatred of Americans is a language barrier, according to Sgt. Murphree.
"It's just a communication breach," he said. "If we were able to have a lot more translators there speaking Arabic, then things wouldn't be as hard as they are. They don't understand what we're saying. We don't understand what they're saying."
Sgt. Murphree is one of the team leaders of a seven-man split squad. His team has had many duties in Iraq.
They have performed raids, escorted high ranking officers, done patrols and vehicle searches. Sgt. Murphree's role is to lead his group of three soldiers.
"I look out for them. I make sure they get their food. I'm the first line of the chain of command for them," he said.
At the beginning of his stint in Iraq, Sgt. Murphree said the living conditions were terrible. After staying in tents, his unit took over a former Baath Party building next to a mosque.
"They just now got the electricity going," Sgt. Murphree said. "We don't have any outlets. None of the stuff works. They're doing the best that they can over there."
Most of the food in Iraq is MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), but occasionally there are cooked meals provided to the soldiers. Most don't even look forward to those, according to Sgt. Murphree.
"Sometimes we can't tell exactly what it is," he said. "We can't tell if it's Camel or what."