Iraqi Freedom mission takes Reserve colonel back to Hungary

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- When Peter Doby was 5 years old, Soviet tanks were patrolling his neighborhood. It was late 1956, and the Soviet Union had just started its brutal counteroffensive against insurgents of the Hungarian Revolution. At times, Peter and his family had to rush into their basement because artillery shells and gunfire were tearing into neighbors’ houses.

Peter’s father, Elmer, had to leave the country because he feared for his life. Peter left several years later and reunited with his father living in the United States.

More than 40 years later, Peter, now a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, revisited his homeland after completing a special humanitarian mission from Iraq to Hungary in June.

The Reservist from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, visited with a number of his cousins during a five-day layover in Budapest.

Istvan Viz, one of Colonel Doby’s cousins, invited him to stay at his house on the “Buda” or right side of the Danube River in Budapest.

Mr. Viz, who was partially paralyzed after a car accident in 1993, said he was glad to see his older cousin once again.

While the two cousins ate Hungarian apple soup and Weiner schnitzel, they relived stories of their childhood. They shared a laugh as they remembered back to a time when they snuck into a local winery.

“We always used to play together and get into a lot of mischief,” Colonel Doby said. “We climbed on top of a few wine barrels, opened the corks and drank out of the testers until we got drunk. I eventually passed out.”

After that, the colonel explained that it would take more than two years for the young boy to go near another flask of wine without feeling nauseous.

Colonel Doby took another trip down memory lane when he visited the Gyermekvasút or Children’s Railroad. Started in the late 1940s, the Children’s Railroad was a unique railway on the outskirts of Budapest run almost entirely by children.

When the colonel was a teen-ager, he worked on the railroad and said it has changed very little since that time.

“This was my favorite part of the ride,” he said as the train passed through a dark tunnel in a hillside. “The best assignment was getting to ride on the train.”

Coincidentally, while serving in Iraq, Colonel Doby ran into one of his friends who also worked on the railway. He said the two met during a meeting in which the friend, now a Hungarian airman, asked, “Did you work on the Children’s Railroad?”

The colonel shared some of his stories from Iraq with his family before getting a phone call from his mother, Ida, living in Miami, Fla. He told his mother about the humanitarian mission, but she wasn’t surprised.

“He’s good at doing these kinds of things,” she said. “Peter is a very conscientious person who likes helping people.”

(Sergeant Lake is deployed as a member of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office at Balad Air Base, Iraq.)

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