JUNEAU (AP) A soldier who grew up in Juneau has received the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement during the last Gulf War.
Sgt. Joseph Mulready spent five months in Kuwait and Iraq as a noncommissioned officer in charge of the 18th Soldier Support Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C.
''I didn't go storm an enemy bunker or anything like that,'' Mulready, 30, said Monday said from his Fort Bragg home. He returned to the United States on Thursday.
The Bronze Star was introduced during World War II by Gen. George C. Marshall, who argued that ground combat troops needed a medal, like the Air Medal introduced two years earlier to improve morale among airmen. The Bronze Star is awarded for valor or merit during combat or in other action against an enemy.
Mulready is a communications specialist, and spent most of his tour ''making something out of nothing,'' using radio and satellite equipment to set up secure Internet networks in the desert.
''We're basically combat support. When we go into an area there's nothing at all, so I put together a matrix from scratch,'' he told the Juneau Empire.
His Bronze Star citation mentioned his efforts during the Army's preparations for deployment and noted that he was ''solely responsible'' for establishing communications networking for the 18th Soldier Support Group. The 18th provides support for such units as the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.
Mulready's family moved to Juneau in the mid-1970s. His parents, Bob and Jane, still live there. Bob Mulready is retired from the Coast Guard, and Jane is a retired schoolteacher turned auctioneer and personal property appraiser.
Joseph Mulready left town at the age of 17 because he wanted to see the country. He ended up in Mobile, Ala., where he laid concrete. The money was good, but he didn't see a future in it. So he joined the Army about five years ago.
''I'll stay until they kick me out. They let me jump out of planes,'' he said.
Mulready didn't parachute in the Persian Gulf, but he is part of an airborne unit at Fort Bragg.
He has served two other overseas tours, one in Korea in the late 1990s, and the other in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2000 to oversee the elections.
In Balad, a town in northern Iraq, he worked with the locals to renovate schools.
Like many soldiers who have returned from Iraq, Mulready was struck by the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots.
''In Baghdad on one side of the street you'd have college kids wearing nice clothes, and across the street, literally across the street, there's a man dying from a common disease because he has no money. In the middle of the desert, the middle of nowhere, you'll see a Jaguar driving by, and then you'll see people riding a donkey,'' he said.
Now that he's home, away from booby-trapped canned goods and the stifling desert heat, he plans to sit around as much as possible and spend time with his wife and 9-year-old son.
''I want to travel, don't get me wrong, but it would be nice to hunker down somewhere,'' Mulready said.
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