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VP candidates share one thing in common: sons heading for Iraq

Track Palin (left) will perform security duties. Track Palin (left) will perform security duties.
By Richard Lardner
Associated Press / September 7, 2008
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WASHINGTON - Iraq is about to become an unusual common ground for the presidential candidates, despite its divisiveness as a campaign issue. Sons of both vice presidential nominees are expected to arrive there soon to join the fighting.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's eldest son, Track, will perform security duties for his brigade's top officers.

"He's just like any other infantry soldier here," said Army Colonel Burt Thompson, who heads the First Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. "He tries to remain as anonymous as he possibly can."

Which is harder than it sounds.

When Senator John McCain selected Track's mother to be his running mate, the Alaska governor's family moved into the international spotlight. She has made no secret that Track Palin and his unit are leaving soon for duty in Iraq, repeating the news during her acceptance speech last week at the Republican political convention. Track, in a dress suit, was in the audience.

The presidential campaigns remain deeply divided over how to end the contentious war - an issue that had front-burner status during the primary season but has not been quite so prominent recently. The deployments of Track Palin and Beau Biden, son of Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, make the subject an intensely personal one, nevertheless, for their families.

"They're going to take a very keen interest in how that war is run," said retired Army Brigadier General David Grange. "It will affect their decision-making. No doubt about it."

Beau Biden, who is Delaware's attorney general, is a captain in the Delaware National Guard and will work as a military lawyer in Iraq.

John McCain's son, Jimmy, a Marine, returned earlier this year from Iraq. Another McCain son, Jack, is a senior at the US Naval Academy.

Palin's unit is believed to be headed to Diyala, among the most dangerous of Iraq's 18 provinces. It extends from the northeastern suburbs of Baghdad to the Iranian border. Diyala has proved to be difficult to control because it is heavily mixed with Sunni Arabs, Shi'ite Arabs, and Kurds.

Citing security restrictions, the Army will not say where in Iraq Palin's or Biden's units are being sent. Both units are scheduled to be in Iraq for 12 months.

The British government pulled Prince Harry from Afghanistan earlier this year after news leaked he was fighting there. That sparked a debate about whether the children of powerful politicians are treated differently when they join the military.

Track Palin and Beau Biden have received no special considerations, the Army said. Nor will they.

"Absolutely not," said Captain John Atwell, Palin's company commander.

Lieutenant Colonel Len Gratteri, a spokesman for the Delaware Guard, said the only time special status for Beau Biden is discussed at the Guard's headquarters in Wilmington is when the media calls to ask about him.

"He's a soldier," Gratteri said.

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