Minnesota unit behind 'Irak' sign

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2006 - 11:31 PM

Members of the 1/34 Brigade Troops Battalion from Minnesota's National Guard devised the retort to Sen. John Kerry after his comments about those who get sent to Iraq.

A photograph mocking Sen. John Kerry that has gotten enormous TV, radio and online exposure has turned out to have Minnesota roots.

Members of a unit under the command of the Minnesota National Guard created the intentionally misspelled sign.

The sign, painted in thick, blue letters across a white banner says, "Halp us Jon Carry -- We R stuck hear n Irak."

The picture of the sign, held by eight soldiers, has raced across the Web and TV newscasts for the past three days.

Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said Thursday that the "Red Bull" logo and the number "1-34," seen on the bumper of a truck in the photo, indicate that the soldiers pictured are under the command of a Minnesota unit.

About 2,600 Minnesota Guard members have been deployed to Iraq and attached to the 1/34 Brigade Troops Battalion. The unit has soldiers from Minnesota and five other states, Olson said.

Capt. J. Elaine Hunnicutt, a spokeswoman in the Joint Operations Center in Iraq, confirmed in an e-mail that the soldiers in the photo were from the Minnesota Guard.

"The soldiers' intent in taking this photo was meant as a humorous response to the current debate in the media, and the command recognizes it as such," she wrote. "This was not a political statement, and we do not want it to become one or put our soldiers in a compromising position."

The photo initially was posted on the website of Milwaukee talk radio host Charlie Sykes, who said "everybody picked it up to the point where it crashed our server."

He said a listener who has e-mail contact with a member of the unit sent him the photo. Sykes said he "wouldn't go so far as comparing it to planting the flag on Iwo Jima, but it's become the iconic picture of the troops in Iraq."

The incident started Monday when, addressing college students in California, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee said people who don't study hard would likely "get stuck in Iraq." Aides say Kerry mistakenly dropped the word "us" from his prepared text and meant to say, "you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq," referring to President Bush.

Kerry has since apologized.

The photo also caught the eye of the White House. Press secretary Tony Snow, in an interview Thursday with WDAY-AM of Fargo, N.D., said the photo was "wonderful and shows a great sense of humor."

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