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Susan W. Wilder paced the auditorium here like a motivational speaker and asked the new veterans of the war in Iraq what pleased them most now that they were, at last, home.
The soldiers arrayed neatly before her — the first sergeant saw to that — answered as they had months ago when, in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq and later in the swelter of Baghdad, they had let their thoughts drift achingly toward home.
"Beer," several shouted cheerfully. "Sex," others answered. It was hard to say, amid the laughter, which they had missed most.
The joking subsided, though, as Mrs. Wilder, herself a soldier's wife, asked what bothered them most now that they were home.
"Less tolerant of stupid people," Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Jordan of the First Brigade, Third Infantry Division, said bitterly. "Stupid people doing stupid things."
There was a murmur of assent