Colonel John Scocos, left. (submitted photo) There are not many safe places in Iraq these days, even the Green Zone has become somewhat of a Red Zone, with continuous mortar attacks. So, how does our state's top veterans official cope in the midst of it?

He focuses on the mission. That's what Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos says from Baghdad ( photo ). And like thousands of Wisconsin soldiers also serving in the Middle East, some on their third tours of duty, Scocos says he focuses on his family back home.

“I think my wife is doing a wonderful job. I miss her and I miss my kids and family. They look at email; we talk a lot on the phone.”

Although it's no substitute for being home, the men and women in uniform can make use of the Internet, email and other forms of communication. Scocos says it could be worse, considering the limited contact GIs had with their families while serving in WWII.

“The communication is great here, you know when you get that package in the mail from your family or friends it's really a wonderful thing.”

In addition to helping with logistics in Iraq's re-building effort, the colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve is able to see first-hand what Wisconsin troops are going through. Scocos can use that information when he returns to his official role as Veterans Secretary, and help to create and refine benefit plans for our returning veterans, including the “ Mission Welcome Home ” project. Meanwhile, Scocos is learning to deal with the 114-degree days … which he likens to a giant hair-dryer. He says the long days of work keep him pretty busy, but he occasionally finds time to do a little reading and some other important things.

“I either go to the gym, talk to my wife, sleep, and get ready to go for the next day. The days just seem to go by, I mean, to be honest, the time … it seems like it's flying.”

As for the luxuries of home, Scocos says it'd be nice to have a glass of wine with his wife and friends. Under a General Order , soldiers are prohibited from possessing alcohol while in a combat zone.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (2:02 MP3)

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