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Trials of war forge Odierno's bond with troops

  • Story Highlights
  • Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno is being tapped to lead Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • He's served two tours of duty in Iraq, and his son was severely injured there
  • On second tour, he helped coordinate the "surge" that the U.S. says has cut violence
  • His size, attitude have earned the West Point grad the nickname "Tony Soprano"
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By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The man tapped to take charge of Operation Iraqi Freedom has a special link to the troops in Iraq and their families: He's served two tours of duty in the country, and his son was severely injured there.

As an Army captain, Tony Odierno, the son of Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, went to the region in March 2004 while his father was finishing his first stint there.

A few months later, the two men had a 90-minute dinner in a mess tent in Kuwait. Soon after, Gen. Odierno got a call from his son's commander.

"He called me on my cell phone and said Tony's been injured, severely injured," Odierno told CNN's Barbara Starr in March 2006.

On August 21, 2004, while on patrol in Baghdad, Tony Odierno's Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The driver was killed instantly, and the younger Odierno, who was then 26, lost an arm.

"As always, the Army community came together," Gen. Odierno said. "They were worried about trying to get us to Landstuhl [Medical Center, Germany,] so we could meet him as he was evacuated, like they do for everyone. That is not something I get as a general officer, they do that for every family who's injured."

Odierno's first command in Iraq was the 4th Infantry Division, the unit that had found Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

During his second tour, which ended less than three months ago, he helped coordinate the "surge" that the U.S. government credits with reducing the violence and U.S. casualties in Iraq since last summer.

Odierno, who in February was nominated to be the Army's vice chief of staff, is instead being nominated to fill the position now held by Gen. David Petraeus, who has been picked to replace Navy Adm. William Fallon as chief of U.S. Central Command.

Fallon resigned in March, saying reports that he was at odds with the Bush administration over Iran had made his job impossible, even though the reports were false.

Odierno is a West Point graduate often referred to as "Tony Soprano" for his bulky frame and his tough attitude toward insurgents.

Even before her son was wounded, the general's wife, Linda Odierno, was involved in helping war casualties.

"She went to every single memorial service that we had, she visited every family who had a loss, she visited soldiers that were injured," Odierno said. "I mean she had been through this for a long time. I mean, as the division commander's wife, she organized a lot of these things."

Odierno said in the 2006 interview that his son's wound has deepened his understanding of what thousands of America's military families are going through.

"I think, for the first time, it hit home to a lot of people that this is reality, this happens and it could affect anybody," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Raymond OdiernoDavid PetraeusIraq War

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