Hurricane Irene strands 12 local soldiers in New Jersey

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A dozen families in the Chippewa Valley are feeling the effects of Hurricane Irene after 12 homeward bound Army Reserve soldiers get stranded in New Jersey.

The soldiers from the 397th Engineer Company out of Eau Claire were supposed to be back in Wisconsin this weekend after a year in Afghanistan.

On Sunday afternoon, WEAU 13 News spoke with a local sergeant grounded at Fort Dix, New Jersey and his wife who wants him home safe.

Lisa Aspen of Eau Claire said she was counting the days until she could see her husband again.

“Just the little everyday things you take for granted. Just cooking a meal together, being with the kids and stuff,” Lisa said.

But Hurricane Irene had a different plan.

The infamous hurricane ripped a path of destruction from North Carolina to New England.

Already going through processing at Fort Dix, Lisa’s husband Sergeant Jeremy Aspen got caught in the storm.

“Supposed to be back this weekend but because of the earthquake and hurricane we’ve been postponed,” Sgt. Aspen said.

Sgt. Aspen, along with 11 other Army reservists from the Chippewa Valley in the 397th Engineer Company spent the last year clearing roads for troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Lisa said she’s talked with other soldiers’ families in the area, who say they’re frustrated they can’t see their loved ones.

“How much else could get thrown at them at this point? There is a lot of frustration with the wives and the families in general,” Lisa said.

The wife and mother said she is glad her husband is back in the U.S.

“For a long time you just wanted to make sure they were alive. And then it was more like get them back to the states. There was relief they were in the states but anxious to get them home,” Lisa said.

Sgt. Aspen said heavy rain and wind damaged the area around Fort Dix, knocking out power to the base.

“There’s a bunch of trees that are uprooted. Branches off, two downed power lines outside the base,” Sgt. Aspen said.

Until the power went out Sunday morning, Sgt. Aspen said he and his fellow soldiers had been able to communicate with family in the Chippewa Valley.

“I know everyone misses their families and they’re anxious to be home. Just want everybody to know as soon as we can get there, we will be there,” Sgt. Aspen said.

Sgt. Aspen said he should be back home by Monday or Tuesday.

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  • by Soldier's Friend on Aug 29, 2011 at 07:54 PM
    These poor guys were left at Dix while the military evacuated the base. They were simply handed a box of MREs and told to stay. This is a huge failure to our troops. Our guys deserve to be treated with respect. They just want to come home.
  • by Justin Baker Location: rhinelander(ft dix) on Aug 29, 2011 at 02:38 PM
    120 from all over wi , we are all waiting
  • by Army Wife on Aug 29, 2011 at 01:45 PM
    The other part of the story is the whole group was delayed in Manas for over two days with a broken down plane before finally reaching Ft. Dix, New Jersey last Saturday. They then were part of the earthquake and the hurricane. There is still no official word when they will be home as of 3:45pm Monday. It is very upsetting.
  • by stanley Location: stanley on Aug 29, 2011 at 04:55 AM
    just for your info, these soldiers are part of a company from Wausau, so it does take more than a helicopter. Glad they are back on our side the pond.
  • by Mike on Aug 29, 2011 at 02:54 AM
    They should pick these guys up in a helicopter, and bring them home now!
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