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Wahnapitae woman releases husband's video of American trucks

BY KEITH LACEY In peaceful Wahnapitae, a woman is fighting her own private war waiting and worrying about her husband who is working in Iraq.
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BY KEITH LACEY

In peaceful Wahnapitae, a woman is fighting her own private war waiting and worrying about her husband who is working in Iraq.

Joanne Bradshaw, 47, says she didn't think her husband, Loren, 48, would be placing his life in danger when he accepted a job driving a transport truck in Iraq 18 months ago or she would never have agreed to let him go. He works for a trucking firm out of Houston, Texas.

"When he took the job, he wanted my support and assured me he'd be safe, so I believed him and didn't worry too much," said Bradshaw.

Her husband has come perilously close to being seriously injured or killed during two frightening incidents over the past few months.

Last week, Bradshaw garnered national media attention after she released a videotape sent to her by her husband where he and fellow American civilians were attacked by Iraqi insurgents outside of Baghdad.

The video showed bullets flying past the truck being operated by Loren.

He is yelling for a convoy of truck drivers to go around a truck that had broken down while insurgents were firing bullets at them.

The video and an interview with Bradshaw was played across the country on the CTV National News late last week. She's also talked to reporters with CNN, CBC Radio and numerous other media outlets.

The terrifying incident took place last September, but the American military didn't want it released. It only became public after Bradshaw's husband sent her the video last week.

In another incident last year, a truck Bradshaw's husband was driving in Iraq "was totally blown up" by a roadside bomb.

"He told me it was almost a miracle he wasn't killed as his truck was engulfed in flames...The army got there in time to get him out, and he was dodging bullets while being rescued.

"When I finally got to talk to him, he told me everything was OK and not to worry and it was just a fluke...he assured me it wasn't going to happen again, but it did."

She is able to talk to her husband for 15 minutes each evening, and she made the decision a long time ago to not show weakness or how much she misses him. Instead she tries to  cheer him up and discuss positive things. Loren is the stepfather to her two children. ages 21 and 19.

"He's having a tough time over there because he's seen a lot of death and it's really starting to get to him, so when he phones, he likes to talk about how I'm doing and how the kids are and good things in his life," said Bradshaw. "I don't want him to know how worried I am because I don't want to be negative.

"I send him jokes and e-mails I hope can make him laugh...he has a great sense of humour, but he's lost a lot of that since going over there," she said.

Joanne is a Micmac Indian who makes a living creating and selling native arts and crafts at trade shows, country fairs and festivals in Canada and the United States.

Originally from the small Northern Ontario community of Folyet, she met Loren, an American, several years ago in Michigan. He pulled over to assist her when her car broke down on a back road.

"He helped me and we went to a coffee shop waiting for the tow truck and hit if off and exchanged numbers," she said.

They kept in touch over the phone and Internet for more than a year.

They met again when she attended a powwow in Michigan.

"We met again and it was instant (love)," she said. "I spent that weekend at his place, and a couple of months later I moved in with him and we've been together ever since."

They got married five years ago in Michigan and two years ago they moved to Wahnapitae because her daughter became ill.  They bought a house on the shores of the Wanapitei River.

Lorne took the job in Iraq after hearing details about job openings from fellow transport truck drivers.

Except for two three-week leaves last September and during Christmas, Bradshaw hasn't seen her husband since he started working in Iraq 18 months ago.

As part of his contract with the American government, Loren is not allowed to tell her what he's transporting.

"He's not allowed to tell me, and I really don't want to know anyway...I just want him to be safe and that's obviously difficult to do in such a dangerous situation," she said.

Of the 12 civilians caught in the frightening firefight last September, 10 have quit their jobs and returned to the United States. Only her husband and one of his friends remains, said Bradshaw.

Even though her husband is applying to become a Canadian citizen, he's a proud American who took the job because he strongly believes in the cause to bring democracy to Iraq, she said.

"He took the job because...he saw what that country did to its people, especially women and children, and wanted to go there because he honestly believes one person can make a difference," she said.

"He served six years in the marines, and he knew what he was getting into. (He) convinced me going there was something he just had to do."

Watching the videotape was shocking and disturbing.

"I just broke down and started crying...when you see the man you love getting shot at and it looks like he might be killed, it's obviously very upsetting."

She hopes she can convince her husband to stay home when he returns for his next stint of rest and recreation in September.

"This has all been a bit overwhelming and I just want him to come home and stay home," she said.

Her husband has plans for a much quieter lifestyle when he finally does return home for good.

"He wants to sit down on our dock here on the river and do some fishing for at least a month," she said. "He said he doesn't want to worry about paying bills or money and just wants to buy a bass boat and take me and the kids fishing."