One trip to Iraq is enough for Alex Cornell du Houx '06.
"One deployment is plenty," said Cornell du Houx, who returned to Maine with the Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, yesterday after a seven-month deployment in Fallujah, Iraq.
Cornell du Houx and his unit of about 56 local Marine reservists arrived in Topsham where they were met by family, friends, the news media, and Gov. John Baldacci.
"It's great to be back in Bowdoin and Maine, and I am looking forward to catching up with my family and friends," Cornell du Houx, who left Bowdoin in December 2005 to train with his unit, said in an email interview from his home in Solon, Maine, with the Orient late last night.
"He looked great and happy to be back," said friend Clark Gascoigne '08, who was at the Marines reserve center in Topsham to greet the unit with Frank Chi '07 and Cornell du Houx's parents.
Cornell du Houx's journey home started with the unit being helicoptered to Kuwait, followed by a flight to Germany, he said. The Alpha Company from there flew to Bangor and then to Camp Pendleton in California for about a week of debriefing, which included taking classes and "liberty"?described by Cornell du Houx as "basically a day out on the town."
The final leg of the journey began on Tuesday with a flight to Worcester, Massachusetts, and then a bus ride, complete with a police escort, back to Maine yesterday morning.
"You miss anything from your family and friends to Bowdoin and anything as small as the fall leaves," he said, adding that after stopping by Bowdoin, the first thing he did when he got home to Solon was have dinner with his family.
Cornell du Houx said he will be on campus visiting friends over the next few days and would start classes again in about two weeks. His course load will include two independent studies and a class taken credit/D/fail, which he thinks will make the transition back to campus easier since he'll "be able to pick up where I left off."
'Right now it's most important for him to take some time to relax and decompress," said Gascoigne. "He's had a busy seven months."
Cornell du Houx, who was made a corporal while in Iraq, is a 0351 assaultman and deals with explosives. He said that "there is no typical day in Iraq," and that his unit undertook tasks such as "convoy security, guard duty, patrolling the roads, hitting houses, ambushes, manning observation posts, [and] other sustained operations."
"As far as keeping the peace and stability of Iraq in general, one of the pressing issues we have as Marines is the fact that we are traditionally trained and have the mentality to accomplish the mission and destroy the enemy," Cornell du Houx said. "However, in this war we are forced to act as police. It's a hard line to play since you have to assume everyone around you is a potential threat, yet you have to act respectful and pretend that that's not what you are thinking."
He added, "This is different from being a police officer where your major task is to view the population as if you are protecting them, which makes our job inherently harder, if not close to impossible at times."
Cornell du Houx, who has been in the Marine Force Reserves since coming to Bowdoin, said that his experiences in Iraq have given him a broader perspective.
"I have learned a great deal during this deployment and it is great to be able to experience being in a more liberal setting such as Bowdoin as well as a more conservative environment such as the Marines," he said. "However, this deployment has not affected my political ideology."
Cornell du Houx, who before leaving for Iraq was president of the Maine College Democrats and director of development for the College Democrats of America, garnered national attention with his deployment in March.
Cornell du Houx now has some time off from the military, which will allow him to get back into Bowdoin life.
"Unless Congress says otherwise, I'm not required to go back to Iraq for two years," he said.