Hurricane Irene strands 12 local soldiers in New Jersey

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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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