|TIKRIT, Iraq, Aug. 10, 2006 — Any war veteran can tell you how important personal time is and how it helps soldiers cope with the separation from home and family.
Sgt. Otis C. Wells, base reaction force, 122nd Engineer Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, uses his personal time to grow a garden in the middle of a desert.
“I used my time between missions to work on my garden,” Wells said. “That’s what I like to do … I do it every year back home.”
The native of Wagener, S.C., had to create all the tools needed to work his garden. He found pieces of an old rake and fixed it to use as a hoe. A shovel served as his tiller. The water was carried by hand from the house until a local national helped him configure an irrigation system using a water tank and a trenching system.
The only thing he could not find here were the seeds. Wells’ wife, Diann, sent him the beans, okra, corn and watermelon seeds from home.
“The ground here is great … all you need is water,” Wells said. “I didn’t even have to use fertilizer.”
Wells said his corn popped out of the ground in a matter of days. The only problem he had was timing. He noted that he planted his crops a little late for the desert growing season, and that the July sun is considerably hotter than in South Carolina at this time of year and difficult to manage.
“I started the garden in April, when I should have started it in February,” he said. “I saw the local farmers were already harvesting their crops and mine were just starting to come up. ”Wells said he is proud of his garden and noted that although he had to overcome some harsh conditions and