By Pat Bywater


FT. DIX, N.J. — “I have a little extra pep in the step,” said Cpl. Jim Severo of Meadville not long after returning Tuesday from his nine-month deployment to Iraq.

The pep wasn’t just because Severo was relieved and happy to be home, although he was certainly both. It was also because he lost at least 100 pounds right after his plane landed — 100 pounds of equipment. As a combat medic, Severo might have lost a bit more than most of the troops, but comments about shedding pounds of stuff weren’t uncommon as the troops returned Monday and Tuesday. Some kept forgetting that they didn’t need to carry a rifle everywhere. Severo described a briefing just after his flight landed at Ft. Dix. He noticed that when the briefing concluded many of the men reached down to pick up rifles — rifles they no longer had because they had been turned in right before the briefing. During interviews Monday and Tuesday others spoke with joy of life without body armor.

Despite the immediate physical difference, for many of the troops, Severo included, the fact that the mission was over hadn’t quite taken hold yet.

“It really doesn’t feel real yet,” he said Tuesday. “It probably will when I get to see friends and family and have a home-cooked meal.”

Despite hauling around a load of equipment in heat that reached 110 degrees, Severo returned to the states in better shape than he left. He and some buddies hit the weights to pass down time and there was no lack of food. He gained about 30 pounds of muscle.

Like the other returning soldiers, Severo expects a period of readjustment to civilian life. Serving in a combat zone “gives you a kind of Sixth Sense. Kind of looking over your shoulder,” he said. “You definitely pick up a lot of things you would not normally.”

For some soldiers, it may take some time to turn this “Sixth Sense” off.

At this point Severo plans to take about a month off before returning to his civilian job in North Carolina. He joined the Guard in Meadville, but work eventually took him south. When he learned the local unit was being called up for Iraq, he left his job and came back to Meadville because he did not want to miss the deployment.

For now, however, he is just taking it all in. “I’m just happy to be home,” he said.

Pat Bywater can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

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Cpl. Jim Severo was featured by The Meadville Tribune in a question-and-answer interview in August. You can read the interview by typing his last name into the search engine at our Web site. You can also view a slideshow of Severo’s pictures from Iraq. Click on the slideshow link and look for the slideshow titled “Local soldier’s photos from Iraq.”

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