Special Reports

The flames of Shadrack, Meshak and Abednego

Their tickets home were practically in their hands, but threeBravo Company soldiers decided to cash them in for a $15,000 bonus and the opportunity to continue serving in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Ron Oldham of Middleton, Sgt. Shaun Natwick of Kuna and Cpl. Paul Maisey of Caldwell stood before the eternal flame Friday, a Biblical landmark near Kirkuk, and were sworn in for six more years of military service.

"It's Biblical and it has been around forever, and we've been aroundfor ever, so it seemed fitting," Oldham said.

The eternal flame is a crater about 50-feet in diameter written about in the Old Testament. King Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrack, Meshak and Abednego into the flames because they wouldn't worship his golden idol. The Bible tells of them surviving, unburned, because of their faith in God.

The three soldiers stood in the crater and near the flame. Actually, alittle too close because a flame erupted near Oldham's feet and singed his boot while Lt. Col. Michael Woods of Boise administered their re-enlistment oath.

Oldham has already served 15 years in the military, and he saidhelping the Iraqis was a prime motivator for re-enlisting.

"I kind of like being here, actually. Seeing all these kids makes itbetter," he said. "Giving them a better future, that's what it's allabout."

Before this enlistment ends, Oldham will be eligible for retirement.He said he never really considered getting out and going home.

"I'm in it for the long haul. I couldn't leave my guys back here," hesaid. "It's also kind of a family tradition. My dad was in and all myuncles and cousins, too."

-- Roger Phillips

For Cpl. Paul Maisey, deploying to Iraq has been, as Yogi Berra would say, "deja vu all over again."

Maisey was about to get out of the Marine Corps when the U.S. firstinvaded Iraq in March 2003. His enlistment was involuntarily extended, and he was part of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment that rolled from Kuwait through the southern Iraqi oilfields and into Baghdad.

Maisey spent an extra four and half months in the Marines after hisfour years were up before getting his discharge. Then he decided tojoin the National Guard for a year while he was attending Boise StateUniversity.

Maisey's one-year contract was supposed to end last August, but once again, it was involuntarily extended and he was sent to Iraq. Heconsidered returning the Marine Corps, but decided to re-enlist in theNational Guard.

"I got to be pretty good friends with these guys,” the Caldwell soldiers said. "I decided to stay with them and take some money, too."

Each of the soldiers will receive a $15,000 re-enlistment bonus, which the military is offering to keep forces in the service.

"The money is part of it, but if I didn't want to put on the uniform,I wouldn't do it for the money," Maisey said.

-- Roger Phillips

The $15,000 bonus for Sgt. Shaun Natwick will be shining in his driveway when he gets home to Kuna. He bought a brand new Harley Davidson, which he plans to ride for the first time when he takes leave.

All three know that signing on for another six years means thepossibility of another deployment.

"I expect to be deployed at least one more time," Natwick said."You've always got to expect that part."

-- Roger Phillips

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