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Mom-to-be waits

April 16, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

Editor's note: This is one in a series of occasional stories focusing on families of members of the military serving in the war against Iraq.




tammyb@herald-mail.com

Like most expectant mothers, Tammy Robinson of Hagerstown is counting the weeks until her baby's arrival. She's expecting a boy, she says, and he's due May 6.

Robinson makes her regular visits to the doctor, and she's already planned care for her 6-year-old daughter, Jaclyn, and arranged for a tight web of family and friends to surround her in the hospital.

That should help take care of the stress that always accompanies childbirth. Except for one thing.

Her circle of family and friends will be missing the most important member.

Lance Cpl. Dereck Robinson, serving with the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Supply Battalion, will miss the birth of his son. Right now, Tammy Robinson isn't even sure where he is. The last time she knew his location he was at Camp Fox in Kuwait, but she doesn't think he's there anymore.

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"We didn't hear from him for eight or nine weeks," she said. "But he called Saturday (April 5). And the first thing he said was, 'don't ask any questions because I can't tell you anything.'"

All Robinson knows is that her husband was with some British troops, the temperature was 115 degrees at 7 a.m. and he was running from the embedded reporters.

"He said, 'tell everybody everything's fine and I love everyone,'" she said.

Robinson said her husband got the call to report to Camp Lejeune on Christmas Eve and left Dec. 26. He left North Carolina for the Middle East on Jan. 13. Robinson and their family went to Camp Lejeune to see him off.

"He hugged Jaclyn and then he left. He did not turn around; he did not look back," she said.

For her part, Jaclyn "understands that Daddy left to protect our country, and she understands that Jesus protects Daddy," Robinson said.

She said she hopes the collapse of the Iraqi government quickly brings a close to the war, for two reasons. Not only would war's end take Dereck Robinson out of harm's way, but "if it's peace time, the Red Cross will be able to get in touch with him" when the baby's born, she said.

Either way, she won't be alone.

"My mom, my sister, my best friend and Jaclyn will be there," she said. "I can't say I'm scared, because I know everything will be OK - I just wish he could be there to experience it."

A more practical wish is to get her hands on a video camera in time for the birth, so he can experience it after the fact.

They've picked out a name for the baby, but she wouldn't reveal it.

"He bet me I couldn't keep it a secret," she said, although she allowed that Jaclyn knew and was trying to keep the secret, too.

Robinson said she doesn't watch much of the war coverage on television.

"When it first came on I was pretty glued to it," she said, but when the first reports of casualties came in, it got "too stressful."

She said she's "got a strong family and strong friends and a very strong faith. And I think those three things can get you through anything."

Robinson cares for six children during the day, and that keeps her mind occupied.

"I keep busy all day," she said. "When the lights go off and Jaclyn goes to sleep, that's when it's the hardest."

She did watch as a group of Marines helped a crowd of Iraqis pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last week.

"To see the joy and the freedom on their faces, it made me feel it was worth every sacrifice of the family - that it was worth it all, and to know it had to be done," Robinson said.

Although Robinson doesn't know for sure when her husband will be home, she says "he'll be home soon. He's too stubborn to give up; he'll be home soon."

When he gets home, he's promised to take the family to Disney World. But he apparently has had enough heat and sand for a long time, his wife said.

"He said, 'I hope you don't want to go to the beach for another 10 or 15 years.'"

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