Families of 155th tell how they cope with loved ones’ absence

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ask Glenda Grayson of Fayette how her husband is doing these days, and she gets a faraway look in her eyes.

Thousands of miles away, to be exact. That is because her husband, Londell, is now, serving in Iraq with the National Guard’s 155th Infantry, more than 50 members of which are from the Miss-Lou.

But hearing her children call to her as they play in the back yard of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9573 jolts her back to reality.

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She has a college career to think of and four children, ages 1 to 10, to raise, giving her little time to talk &045; or to allow herself to think &045; about what her husband faces in Iraq.

&uot;I talked to him Wednesday,&uot; Grayson said during a lunch and playtime the post’s Ladies’ Auxiliary sponsored for the children of 155th soldiers Saturday.

She added she and the other members of the unit’s Family Resources Group &uot;wait on pins and needles until we hear from one of them, and then we all call to let each other know.&uot;

The worst time, she said, is nighttime &045; &uot;because that’s when the silence sets in.&uot;

But for the most part, Grayson has learned to keep busy, which isn’t difficult for her these days. &uot;I go to Co-Lin Š majoring in nursing, and I have the kids to keep me busy,&uot; Grayson said, scooping up her 1-year-old girl in her arms.

&uot;I try not to think about it, to be honest,&uot; she added. &uot;I turn it over to God.&uot;

Keeping other military wives and mothers close &045; and staying away from news about Iraq &045; is how she and others close to the 155th cope with the realities of war and the homefront these days.

&uot;Don’t watch the news,&uot; said Tanekia Anderson of Bude, watching her nephew, Berryyon, ride a horse at the event. Berryyon’s father just came back from serving in Iraq; his grandfather is still there.

On the topic of the war &045; and of his brother serving in it &045; Jonathan Jones of Woodville said simply &uot;I try not to think about it.&uot; In fact, he said if he could, he would tell his brother not to think about home, either. &uot;I’d tell him not to worry about us, to just keep his mind on what he’s doing,&uot; he said.

But his brother, Joshua Jones, does think about home quite a bit. &uot;He said he misses my cooking,&uot; their mother, Brenda Jones, said, displaying a small proud smile despite herself.

Meanwhile, she keeps herself busy by sending her son care packages, including a big box of his favorite sweet, pecan candy, that his aunt just made especially for him.

Debbie Spencer of Port Gibson has her only way of keeping busy while her son, Corey, is with the 155th in Iraq &045; planning his wedding.

&uot;He proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas Day, just before he went over there,&uot; Spencer said.

Until her son can come home, Spencer will have to be content with telephone calls and e-mails, just like the rest of the spouses and parents and children waiting here at home.

&uot;I sent him a laptop so he can e-mail us and we can e-mail him,&uot; said Spencer, who last heard from her son Thursday.

A few days, she said, &uot;is as long as I can stand not to hear from him. Any longer than that and I get worried. Š I’m hoping he can be back before the end of the year.&uot;

Myrna Washington of Vidalia recommends that others with loved ones in the military reach out to others as much as possible through vehicles such as the 155th Family Resources, or support, group.

She should know. Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, also served in the Army in Bosnia for six months and was activated during the Gulf War, although he did not go overseas.

&uot;They told them to be ready to be over there 18 to 24 months,&uot; Washington said with a weary look. &uot;I’ll just be glad when this is all over.&uot;

Joanne King of Natchez, a member of the post’s Ladies’ Auxiliary, knows all about having a loved one in the military and the toll that takes on the homefront.

Her husband served in Vietnam and spent 22 years in the Navy in all. Her son, who is in the National Guard on the Gulf Coast, is set to go to Iraq in October. And she echoed Washington’s advice.

&uot;It helps to make friends with people who are in the same situation you’re in. Even what we’re having here today &045; it helps them to come together and have something to do,&uot; King said.

&uot;Other than that, I’d tell (military families) to take each day one at a time. And keep your faith, because faith has a lot to do with it.&uot;

Sharon Goodrich of Natchez, a military daughter, wife and mother, said volunteering for many causes has helped her stay busy over the years, and she recommends it to others. &uot;Isolating yourself is the worst thing you can do,&uot; Goodrich said. &uot;And your problems are never so bad when you’re reaching out to someone else.&uot;

For the families of the 155th, that includes reaching out to their loved ones in Iraq, to each other and to God.

For her part, Briana Grayson, Londell Grayson’s 10-year-old daughter, writes her feelings down on paper and sends them to her father. She just wrote the latest one Saturday night.

She confided that she still gets sad when she thinks about her father being at war so far away, but gives a shy smile when her writing is mentioned. What would still tell her father now if she could? &uot;That I love him and I’m praying for him,&uot; she said. &uot;That’s all we can do, is pray.&uot;