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The long wait

March 24, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI and CANDICE BOSELY

scottb@herald-mail.com
martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Spouses and parents on Friday said they are anxiously watching the news and waiting to hear from loved ones overseas involved in the war in Iraq.

Christy Beckwith said she is holding up as well as possible given that her husband is in the Navy in the Persian Gulf.

"All you can do is pray and hope that our government can make the right choices," she said.

She has some thoughts for anti-war activists: "They need to remember that not all people in Iraq are for Saddam Hussein. ... We are fighting so those people can live free like we live free."

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Beckwith communicates with her husband by e-mail, but if she asks for specific information about his location or his work he will not answer those questions, she said. He just tells her he is doing fine and promises to heed her request to be careful.

David Reed of Hancock said that when his son, Scott, joined the Army in June after graduating from Hancock High School he did not worry too much about the possibility of Scott being harmed. Since the outbreak of war, he has been watching more television news and thinking more often about Scott, Reed said.

Reed is proud of his son, who turns 19 next month, and neither of them has any regrets about Scott's decision to join the military because they believe he is doing something honorable.

They communicate by letters, and mail delivery can sometimes take weeks, Reed said.

Susan Shafer's husband, Randall, is somewhere in the Middle East, far from his Martinsburg home, his wife of 17 years and his 8-year-old daughter, Kacy.

Since Senior Master Sgt. Randall Shafer, a full-time member of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, shipped out on March 10, Susan Shafer can tell you exactly when and how many times she has spoken to him on the phone.

Three times. She missed his first call, cried, and then called the phone company to arrange for all incoming calls to be automatically forwarded to her cell phone.

Randall Shafer did not have to go overseas. He had a brain tumor removed last year, which enabled him to stay home for a while, but he was assigned to go to Puerto Rico for a month in January.

He asked his commander to ship him overseas this time. He could not stand to stay home while watching fellow Guard members ship out, his wife said.

Susan Shafer, who plans to speak at a pro-troops rally today, finds strength in prayer.

Whenever she needed to feel a connection to her husband, she used to gaze toward the sky after the sun had fallen, she said. Comfort came in the fact that as she was gazing at the moon, so was he.

"He's nine hours ahead of me so we don't look at the same moon anymore," she said. "When he's looking at the moon, I'm looking at the sun."

Worrying about his safety is inevitable, Shafer said, but she tries to stay positive.

"No matter what happens, we will be reunited one day," she said.

In the meantime, she sends letters, care packages and prayers, even for Saddam Hussein.

"He needs our prayers so he'll come to his senses," Shafer said.

Beth Domenico's husband, James, shipped out for the Middle East on March 5. His daughter, Morgan, turns 1 year old today. He left behind a huge teddy bear for her.

"She always goes over and hugs it," said Domenico, of Falling Waters, W.Va.

Domenico said she had mixed emotions about the launch of bombing raids on Iraq.

"A part of me is glad that it's happening, because the faster it starts, the faster it will be over and the faster he'll be home," she said. "A part of me didn't want it to happen because he's over there.

"I've been trying not to watch TV but I can't stop from watching," she said.

Deanna Kline said she hears many different opinions and viewpoints about the war in which her husband, Jaime Kline, 33, is fighting as an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force.

While she has heard much criticism of Bush, she said, "I think Bush is doing a fabulous job and I stand behind him."

When Jaime Kline was deployed on Nov. 15, his projected return date was Feb. 19. That date was later delayed to March. Now his wife is hearing indications he may not be back until August.

As the assignment gets longer, life without him gets more difficult, she said.

"It is hard. When you are used to having your husband around for 13 years you have to change your habits," she said. "I miss him so much."

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