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News gains importance for parents of a soldier

April 17, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

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.




scottb@herald-mail.com

Every morning since the war against Iraq began, Ray Wharton of Smithsburg tries to visualize what his son, U.S. Army Spc. Raymond Wharton, 20, is doing in the war and wonders if his son is thinking about him, too, he said.

Every time the phone rings, the soldier's parents say, they hope it is him calling to say he is fine.

He has called twice with that message since the war began, his mother, Lorraina Wharton, said Tuesday.

"You think of him when you go to bed and you think of him when you wake up," she said last week.

Wharton is with the 3rd Military Police Company, 3rd Infantry Division. His job involves processing prisoners of war after they surrender. His parents think he is in Baghdad now.

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During their waking hours, the televisions in their home are on constantly, tuned to one of the 24-hour news channels, just in case there is news about their son's unit, Lorraina Wharton said.

Both have developed new habits since the war began: Ray Wharton has begun listening to a news station out of Washington, D.C., and his wife listens to talk radio.

While it was hard having her husband, who retired from the military, serving in the Army, it is even more difficult when it is your son in the military because "that is your baby," Lorraina Wharton said.

Her other two sons also are interested in serving in the military: Matthew Wharton, 19, has met with a recruiter about joining the Air Force and Patrick Wharton, 14, wants to be a Navy fighter pilot, she said.

Ray Wharton's father served in World War II and the Korean War.

Ray Wharton did not fight in the first war against Iraq but as an Army drill sergeant he helped prepare others for combat.

At the time, Raymond was in elementary school. He learned - and repeated for his parents - a rap about the war and would walk around the house in his father's Army uniform, Ray Wharton said.

It was no surprise to them that their son now has his own uniform. Raymond enlisted in the Army soon after graduating from Smithsburg High School in 2000.

His son always planned to serve in the military before going to college later in life to work as a police investigator, Ray Wharton said.

Raymond volunteered to join a unit going to Kuwait.

In a letter home her son wrote, "When war breaks out I do not want to be anywhere but here," Lorraina Wharton said.

Raymond Wharton's siblings - Lauren, 12, Patrick and Matthew - "are worried sick about him," Lorraina Wharton said. They watch the news and understand the war and Raymond's role in it, Lorraina Wharton said.

They write him letters regularly since he has not been able to send or receive e-mails since the war started, she said.

Mail is important, Ray Wharton said. When an Army clerk announces "mail call, and you are there without a letter, it destroys you," he said.

When Raymond Wharton returns home, the family plans to throw a party for him.

They missed spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and he won't be home in time for his 21st birthday in June. So the family plans to celebrate all three events at one party, complete with Christmas tree, when he gets home, Lorraina Wharton said.

During the party, they plan to give him a scrapbook they are making of newspaper articles about the war and video footage of news coverage of members of his unit, Ray Wharton said.

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