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Eric Haulet makes transition from military convoy to grand marshal of Handcar Parade

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

The caravan of classic cars and flat-bed floats Eric Haulet will preside over Saturday morning is a long way from the convoy he was traveling in - heading toward Baghdad - just a few months ago.

Haulet will be serving as grand marshal when the Wilkeson Handcar Races parade heads down Church Street at 11 a.m.

The 24-year-old White River High School graduate was part of the United States "shock and awe" attack on Iraq as the war began in March. As a Marine Corps reservist out of Fort Lewis, the lance corporal's job was to provide combat service support for the 3rd Marine Air Wing. From his station about 30 miles south of Baghdad, he shuttled everything from Band-Aids to bullets.

Handcar Booster Club member Bill Ostlund said a lot of names were bantered around for grand marshal, but Haulet was the obvious choice.

"If he was back in time we thought he would make a great grand marshal," Ostlund said. "We wanted to honor him."

Last month, Haulet left behind the sights, smells, heat and sand of the war in Iraq and returned home to his roots in the Carbonado-Wilkeson area. A bit more patriotic for the experience, he said he hates war and loves the United States. It's hard to have an opinion in the heat of battle because, as a Marine, it's your job, he noted. But back in the U.S.A. there's a new-found appreciation for the homeland.

"Nobody will understand unless they've been there," he said.

For Haulet it was the wait for war that was initially hard to endure.

After graduating from White River in 1998, it was off to boot camp and then a stint in active duty. For the past five years he's been with the Marine Corps Reserves out of Fort Lewis.

He said it was a waiting game since Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers fell in New York. He knew the call would come and, eventually, he was told to get his "affairs in order" - a will, power of attorney, finances, etc. He just didn't know how much time he had to wait.

"It was actually a relief when the call finally came," he recalled. "Called off the couch," as he puts it.

It was off to Camp Pendleton in California for a month, then into Kuwait to roll with the first waves.

"We were there with the initial push," he said.

Haulet said since returning he's concentrating on everyday life, like his two jobs - serving as a Wilkeson police officer and working for Northwest Cascade - making house payments and catching up with friends and family.

With the United States continued involvement in Iraq, his future is not certain.

"There's a chance I'll be called back, a very good chance," he said.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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