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Soldier in Afghanistan on minds of wife, mother

April 29, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

While much of the world's attention is on Iraq, Stephanie Hood, her friends and family are thinking about soldiers in Afghanistan, including her husband of four months, U.S. Army Pvt. Matthew Hood, 21.

Having the world's attention focused on another nation is a mixed blessing, Stephanie Hood, 18, and Matthew's mother, Carol, said last week.

The good news is they are not barraged with the constant television news coverage about soldiers like Hood, whose jobs are to bomb caves and then see if any terrorists are inside, they said.

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But sometimes it is frustrating that any news coverage of Afghanistan is brief, they said. And some people forget members of the military remain in Afghanistan, they said.

"You want to know what is going on but you don't want to worry," Carol Hood says.

When Matthew Hood communicates by e-mail or phone, he can't talk about the work he is doing other than to say he is fine. He called Saturday night with that message.

Matthew Hood, the son of Carol and Frank Hood, graduated from Smithsburg High School in 2000.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks sealed Hood's decision to join the Army. He was sent to basic training in February 2002, knowing he probably was headed for Afghanistan.

There was something he was determined to do before going to fight overseas: Marry Stephanie, even if it meant breaking military rules to do so.

He picked a date for the wedding, but on that day, as with previously proposed marriage dates, Army members were not supposed to travel more than two hours from the military base because of security restrictions, Stephanie Hood said.

Despite that, he drove six to eight hours from his base at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to Hagerstown, arriving on a Sunday night.

The next morning, Monday, Oct. 21, 2002, they were married at the county courthouse and within an hour, he was telling his mother, "I have got to go, I have to go."

At that point his mother did not know he had broken protocol by making the trip, Carol Hood said.

"I was not happy he did it because he could have gotten in a lot of trouble," she said.

Hood was reprimanded, but not seriously, for the infraction, his mother said.

Asked how often she thinks about him, Stephanie Hood said, "Like, all the time."

"I miss him but I am proud of him," she said. She lives with her mother, Phyllis Russo, in Hagerstown.

His mother said she tries not to worry about him but when she is at home, she encounters constant reminders, such as trophies and pictures.

At work, people often ask if she has heard the latest news about the war in Iraq, not realizing that she is trying to take a break from worrying about her son, she said.

And there is some war coverage, such as the news about the prisoners of war, that is too hard for her to watch, she said.

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