Art Warren of Union learned a long time ago there's more than one way for a man to serve his country. A uniform isn't strictly necessary.
UNION — Art Warren of Union learned a long time ago there's more than one way for a man to serve his country. A uniform isn't strictly necessary.
In the summer of 2004, Warren, a career truck driver, gave up the relatively safe and friendly highways of the United States for the dangerous roads leading through Iraq.
Nearly six years later, he still works there as a civilian truck driver, delivering supplies to military outposts.
He's home in the Grande Ronde Valley town Union for the holidays, but plans to go back after Christmas. He can't see himself doing anything else.
"I'm going to be there until the job is done," he said. "I'm not much of a quitter."
In a ceremony at Union High School last week, Warren's son, student body President Ritter Warren, accepted on behalf of the school an American flag from his dad.
That flag, and three others like it that were presented Tuesday, had flown at one time or another over Warren's home base, Camp Cedar in southern Iraq.
Helped out by his brother, Master Sgt. Sean Warren, Art Warren presented one of the other flags to the city of Union, another to Warren's mother, Sherryl Burke, and one more to Art's wife, Nancy.
Three of Burke's sons, including Sean, have seen duty in war zones in recent times.
Sherryl Burke, whose five sons have all served in the military, didn't know she was going to receive a flag.
"I was flabbergasted," she said. "I was so proud."
Sean Warren works in military intelligence for the Idaho National Guard. He did a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004. He is gearing up for a second overseas deployment next year.
Another son, Lee Burke, is a U.S. Army staff sergeant who recently completed Ranger training. He's been to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once.
Sons Stewart and Jack Warren also have served in the military, though they are civilians now.
"I think we all just did some inner looking and went in that direction. We just kind of migrated that way individually," Sean Warren said.
Art Warren will leave his wife and four children one day after Christmas, return to Camp Cedar and resume his perilous career.
Leaving will be hard, but by now, the family is used to seeing him go, he said.
"I've been a driver for so long, and they understand I'm doing it for my country," he said.
In Iraq, Warren drives a "bobtail" rig, one without a trailer, in convoys that are escorted by military personnel.
He is responsible for making sure all the contract trucks in a convoy are properly equipped and loaded, and the drivers briefed.
Although Iraq isn't in the headlines as much these days, insurgents are still using improvised explosive devices in ambushes, and the weapons have become more sophisticated, Warren said.
"There's not as many IEDs, but they're more deadly," he said.
If an attack occurs, Art is responsible for getting the civilian drivers out of harm's way. Recently, he said, a water tanker in one of his convoys was hit with an explosive, but no one was hurt.
Warren said he would like to drive in Afghanistan, should his duties in Iraq come to an end. Driving a truck in a war zone isn't a job for everybody, but it's the one for him.
"It's for my country. I'm doing something special, and it's history," he said.