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Soldier thankful for support from family, friends

By Janet Kubat-Willette &; Kurt Menk

*ews@agrinews.com

ARLINGTON, Minn. -- Michael Diehn planted 50 apple trees in Arlington and then left for adventure.

Diehn graduated from Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School in June 2001 and joined the Army on June 13 for a three-year tour of duty. It would take his apple trees three years to bear fruit, he said recently when telephoned in Germany. When he returns home this spring, his trees should start bearing apples.

When his tour is up, Diehn wants to come home and farm.

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"I'm kind of excited to get home," he said.

Diehn, 21, said he expects to spend the remainder of his time in the Army in Germany. Injuries he sustained in Iraq prohibit him from doing his job.

He suffered four fractured vertebrae in his lower back, broken ribs, bruised lungs, a bruised spleen and a leg wound on Oct. 6 when the sports utility vehicle he was riding in hit a land mine.

Diehn called the capture of Saddam Hussein awesome news but said it wouldn't change the duties of those serving in Iraq.

"They're still doing their jobs, they're still doing their jobs over there," he said.

Diehn is a member of a six-man team in the Echo Company 51st Long Range Surveillance Rangers that is part of the 165th Military Intelligence Battalion.

He trained in Germany, Poland and Kuwait before serving in Iraq.

Diehn is a radio telephone operator, and his main duty is to relay information to his superior officers. The mission of the six-man group is to go behind enemy lines to pull surveillance and collect intelligence on the enemy before and during a war. A helicopter took the group into Iraq for 50 to 60 missions one- to four-day missions.

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"We moved all over the place," Diehn said. "We were considered the general's eyes and ears."

After President Bush declared hostilities over, Diehn's group was involved in searching for Iraq's most wanted. It was on one of those post-war missions that he was wounded.

"I was sitting right behind the driver," Diehn said. A specialist on the team, who was sitting behind Diehn, was blown out of the back of the vehicle and was critically injured.

Diehn was initially treated at a U.S. occupied hospital in Iraq. That's when he called his parents, David and Barbara Diehn of rural Arlington.

His parents described the seven-minute phone call as scary.

"We knew he was alive, but seriously injured," David Diehn said. "We didn't know how serious.

"It was a helpless feeling. He was so far away from home and we couldn't help him."

Diehn flew back to Minnesota on Oct. 20 and returned to Germany on Nov. 5.

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Diehn has three siblings, Sarah, 29, Paul, 27, and Andrea, 12.

Parts of this article originally appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of the Arlington Enterprise. It was written by Kurt Menk. Reprinted with permission.

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