Families of troops watch first hours of war on TV

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2003

Throughout the Miss-Lou Wednesday night, the parents and spouses, uncles and aunts of soldiers watched intently as the first hours of military action in Iraq unfolded on television.

For some, the first reaction was anger over a war they don’t believe we should undertake at all. For others, it was sadness, or pride, and still others simply tried to give their worries over to God.

Linda McClure, wife of LTC Jeff McClure of Vidalia, watched television news all day, viewing the latest developments with a sense of disbelief.

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&uot;They’re doing a countdown. It’s almost a sense of excitement, like they’re counting down to the Super Bowl,&uot; Linda McClure said. &uot;But then you think about our part, about what’s really going on.&uot;

Those reporting and watching the news should never forget that real people are going off to war &045; and that real people are being left behind, she said.

Linda McClure also feels sympathy for young wives of servicemen who have been called to duty.

As the wife of a company commander in the Gulf War, she was responsible for supporting and comforting many of the younger wives of the other soldiers.

And she knows that this time, many young women are going through many of the same things military wives did then &045; disbelief, uncertainty, fear.

&uot;A lot of young families are very fearful,&uot; Linda McClure said. &uot;They don’t have the skills or the experience to deal with what they’re going through right now.&uot;

Also, McClure &045; who teaches history at Block High School in Jonesville, La. &045; wondered how she would present the war to her students.

&uot;How best to direct the children’s conversation and give them a forum for their opinions &045; that’s what I’m trying to think of,&uot; she said.

Meanwhile, she tries to deal with the fact that she might not hear from her husband for a while, since soldiers in Iraq have been placed under a communication blackout for the time being.

A.J. Gardner of Vidalia can relate to that. His grandnephew, Norman Gardner Jr. of Florida, is in Iraq as well. A Special Forces soldier, Norman Gardner could not even tell his own wife exactly where he would be stationed.

&uot;All she knows is that he’s somewhere over there,&uot; A.J. Gardner said. &uot;She’s said she has faith and trust in God to take care of him. All we can do is hope and pray. We live in hope.&uot;

Delores Hutchins, mother of Army Pvt. Leon Hutchins IV, counts herself somewhat lucky, since her son, injured during basic training, is now at home. Still, she gets emotional when she talks about the war.

&uot;I wish it would go away, but I don’t think it is going to go away,&uot; Delores Hutchins said. &uot;I just hope we don’t go into a full-fledged war. I think we can still talk it out.&uot;

For one thing, she saw her brother and his contemporaries go to Vietnam &045; and not come back the same.

&uot;These are young children &045; babies, really &045; who’ve been pampered and don’t know about the world, about guns, about fighting, who don’t what the (war) is even about,&uot; Delores Hutchins said.

&uot;You put guns in the hands of young men and women 18 to 21 years old. Up until then, the most they’ve done is gone hunting in the winter with their fathers.&uot;

Army National Guard Pvt. Justin B. Bailey recently graduated basic training and is still home with his family, including his father, Levi Marsaw III.

&uot;He’s on standby, just like a lot of them,&uot; Marsaw said. &uot;But I look at this (news) and I think about our young people &045; not only Justin, but the many thousands who are in this war.&uot;

As Liz Brooking, aunt of Pfc. Dean Rials, watched the news late Wednesday night at her home near Ferriday, she thought about the young soldiers as well.

&uot;We knew it was coming, or we were pretty sure,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m saddened that this kind of thing has to happen, but we’re behind our troops.

&uot;And you can’t help but feel proud of these kids. We’ve had people enlist, people leaving their families and their little children but doing what’s needed.&uot;

Other than that, Brooking simply waits, like others who have family members in the Vidalia-based 1086th Transportation Company, to see if and when they will be shipped overseas.

&uot;All we can do at this point,&uot; she said, &uot;is pray.&uot;

Woodville resident Wade McCants said his son Michael, a petty officer aboard the USS Bataan, shipped out to the Persian Gulf on Jan. 6.

&uot;They need to finish the job they started in 1991 and get out of there,&uot; said Wade McCants, who hopes Michael makes it home in time to see his second child born around May 5.

&uot;We have not been able to e-mail him for the last four or five days.

We could send and receive e-mails before then,&uot; said Wade McCants, adding that he last talked his son about two weeks ago.

&uot;They can’t talk about exactly where they are or what they are doing, but he’s somewhere in the Persian Gulf,&uot; he said.

The Navy does provide families with contacts where they can inquire about the well-being of their loved ones if they are unable to communicate with them directly, he said.

Wade McCants expressed his support for his son and all other American military.

&uot;I just want all the soldiers and my son to know we do support them, he said. &uot;Let’s go over there and get it down and get them back.&uot;

&uot;We do hope he does come back safe, that everything will be alright,&uot; Michael’s stepmother, Robbi McCants said.

Natchez resident Brandi Bonsall has similar hopes for her sister, Hope Quevas of Brookhaven, who recently received a call from Uncle Sam.

&uot;She was a medic in the Bosnian conflict, and she still has a year and a half to go in the inactive reserves,&uot; Bonsall said.

Because Quevas has such specialized training and experience, the Army recently contacted her about the possibility of returning to active duty.

&uot;She has not been reactivated yet, but she might be. Hope has a 3-year-old son, and she doesn’t want to be away from him,&uot; Bonsall said.

&uot;It’s scary, especially if they make my sister go because she’s been out of the Army for five years,&uot; Bonsall said. &uot;It’s scary (that) if they need her, they can make her go.&uot;