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Mixed emotions from LI military family to Obama speech

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the military at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, before making an address to the nation announcing the under of combat operations in Iraq. (Aug. 31, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

Mixed emotions washed over Dimitry and Genny Popow as they watched President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday night.

On one hand, the Locust Valley couple were relieved. Their son, Marine Sgt. Andrei Popow, 31, wouldn't have to return to the scene of hellish battles he fought for a year in 2004 and 2005 during the Iraqi campaign's darkest moments.

But Sgt. Popow may still see combat again - in Afghanistan - an effort Obama said wasn't over and for which he has set no deadline for ending.

"One stage is over, and for that we are happy," said Dimitry Popow from his living room couch with his wife at his side. "But there is one more stage to go and more stages may yet come."

"True happiness for us," the father said, "will be when the last soldier leaves the Middle East."

The family's tension was heightened when Andrei re-enlisted in the Marines this year. He shipped out for Camp Pendleton in Southern California on Monday and is awaiting orders.

"I had been looking for work, but the economy kept on plummeting," said Andrei Popow, a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and graphic designer, in a brief telephone interview from the base. "So I renewed my contract for a year."

Andrei, who founded a nonprofit called Veterans Rebuilding Iraq, a network of Iraq War veterans who raise money and devote time toward helping Iraqi children, said he could not speak about Obama's speech because of military protocol.

His parents said they were generally impressed with the range of topics the president covered, from his praise of the troops to his final emphasis on reviving the economy and supporting veterans coming home from war.

"At this moment, it should be all about jobs," Genny Popow said. "Without a job, you can't do anything."

The couple watched the Oval Office speech on their flat screen television mostly in silence. They laughed when Obama noted he disagreed with former President George W. Bush about starting the war. Dimitry sighed when Obama spoke of pressing ahead in Afghanistan.

Genny shook her head when the president mentioned the more than 4,400 soldiers who died in Iraq and the trillions spent on the war effort.

"As parents, we just want him to come home in a year," she said. "No more battles."

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