Thursday, April 29, 2004

Madeline Belarde is packing her footlocker with the essentials: family photos, a Bible, her father’s military flag and a bottle of Miss Clairol.

The 51-year-old Pueblo West grandmother is headed to Iraq for a year.

She leaves Colorado on Monday with her younger comrades in the 1835th Medical Detachment Combat Stress Control Unit.

She’ll trade in her sensible nursing shoes for combat boots to provide mental health services to troops...

“Clinically, as a psychiatric nurse, I am ready,” she said. “Militarily, I am getting ‘trained up,’ as they say. When I have a meltdown, I might cry a little while, but I am able to pull myself together. My brother-in-law always told me to enjoy the journey, whatever the journey is. So that is going to be my motto.”

And, she added, “I am going to get buffed.”...

“If anyone can do it, she can do it,” said her daughter, Julie Aragon.

This is, after all, the Nana who tries to get family members to jog with her at 5 a.m.

Usually she doesn’t have any takers, but this weekend she will.

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