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When Sgt. Detter was at the National Training Center for two weeks in March, he couldn’t call. She didn’t know how he was doing. And that drove her crazy.

When he finally called, he told her that he wanted “good barbecue.”

“He said, ‘Mama, they don’t have barbecue in California,’ ” she said with a laugh.

When he returned on leave, Sgt. Detter relaxed at home and spent time with his 16-year-old sister, Jessica, who just bought her first car - a 1995 Honda Accord with 139,000 miles.

“Just another thing for me to be worried about when I’m over there,” Sgt. Detter said, joking for the most part.

Sgt. Detter, who hasn’t seen combat, couldn’t wait to get to Iraq. His mother wishes he was back paving roads with the state transportation department, where she works as an inspector.

“What if something happens” - she stopped short, unwilling to finish the sentence.

Yes, Ms. Partridge knows the violence has subsided. Yes, she knows her son will be more of a peacemaker than a warrior. Still, the uncertainty keeps her awake.

“No one talks about Iraq anymore. You don’t see it on the news,” she said. “But for our families, it’s always on our mind.”

Jennifer Guinn moved in with her mother shortly after Staff Sgt. Ryan Guinn left for Fort Stewart, Ga., in January. In late March, her stepfather died of cancer.

This was almost too much to handle for Mrs. Guinn, just 22 and the mother of four: a son from a previous marriage, two stepsons who joined the family with husband Ryan, and the couple’s daughter Kylee, just 10 months old.

“He’s my rock,” she said of her 34-year-old husband.

The experience of E Company veterans like Sgt. Guinn, many of whom served at the height of violence in Iraq, doesn’t neatly translate to the job ahead: ramping down a war in a country coming to terms with relative peace. Ten American men and women died in Iraq in March - the fewest number of U.S. casualties in Iraq since the beginning of the war. Six of those troops were killed in non-hostile action.

Even so, Sgt. Guinn and other veterans are still trying to brace youngsters like Sgt. Detter for what’s to come.

“You have a lot of rookies here and you have to show them the way,” Sgt. Guinn said. “You train hard as a unit so everyone knows their role. You can’t make any mistakes because there’s no place in Iraq that’s 100 percent safe.”

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