My Thoughts

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

When the war gets personal

Excuse me, but war stinks.

I have had the opportunity to talk to a few soldiers prior to departing for duty in the Middle East and I have sympathized with their families as they prepare to let go of their loved ones.

And I have been there to welcome home some of the area soldiers as they returned home and to thank them for their service. Some of the soldiers I have talked to left as boys, facing things they shouldn't have to. The exposure matures them quickly; they returned as men.

I have a nephew - only eight years my junior - who has been called to active duty. He is making the National Guard his career so I know he is well prepared. But, I can't help but feel sadness - knowing he is away, where danger lurks, and away from his wife and young children.

Connected with the 1/125th FA Battery B unit out of Jackson, Minn., he left yesterday for his intensive training, originally planned for Mississippi, in the area where Katrina hit. But now, the troops have gone to Georgia, where the newest hurricane is set to hit.

I will be one of my nephew's biggest supporters - as I have been for many important things in his life. I was there for many of his basketball games, when he was crowned homecoming king, when he graduated from high school, and to witness his marriage to his beautiful wife.

I recall the time he and his younger sister were with me, as I was driving in a snow storm and we went in the ditch, despite Scott's reassurance, "You're doing good." And oh, how often we have laughed about that scary time since.

And the many times he helped move me once I was out of college and began finding where I belonged. And he was with me when my 1975 pride and joy Firebird turned over to its 100,000-mile mark. When the numbers started over, we laughed about riding in my "brand new" car!

His wife will be left at home to care for their three children ages 6, 4 and 18 months. She has become involved in the Bravo Family Readiness Group (FRG), a volunteer group made up of military families and retirees. The FRG's purpose is to share accurate, timely information, provide mutual moral support, and bring families together while soldiers are deployed, as well as at home.

She had the opportunity to attend the National Guard Family Programs Conference in Boston this summer with about 1,000 others either facing deployments or having gone through them. She shares some interesting websites for family members to check out.

* www.deploymentkids.com A website just for kids. Activity ideas, downloads and advice on dealing with deployments.

* Dads at a Distance: http://www. dads.com Includes 20 activities for long distance dads to do with their children to stay connected.

* www.survivingdeployment.com Excellent resource and information website with links, helpful books and advice.

And she shares some ideas on how families can stay connected.

* Daddy (or son, mommy or daughter) pillows:

Use t-shirt transfers to iron on a picture of loved one (or child with your loved one) to a pillowcase. Or place the picture on one of your loved one's t-shirts, stuff it and sew the arms and bottom shut. Give a hug to your loved one anytime! T-shirt transfers are available at office supply stores and Walmart and have easy instructions. Be sure to use a light colored pillowcase or fabric, as your picture will not show well on dark fabric.

* Recording Picture Frames

Radio Shack and other electronic stores carry frames that will record ones voice for 10-20 seconds. This is a great way to show your favorite picture and hear your loved one's voice any time of the day. They come in a variety of sizes and can be easily packed away with your soldier so he can hear your voice when he needs it as well.

* Tape Recorders

Buy yourself and your soldier a hand held tape recorder to share tapes back and forth with each other. Throughout the day as you think of something to tell them, put on the recorder and share it. Carry it with you to events and have other family and friends send messages. Soldiers can read or tell stories to their children along with daily thoughts. When the tape is full, send it to your loved one to listen. It's a wonderful way to keep connected on everyday thoughts and happenings, and for little ones to hear daddy talking to them.

* Thoughtful Alarm

Deployed soldier and family members at home set watch alarms to go off at the same time each day (set to applicable time zones.) Then you will have thought of each other for a moment "together".

* Count Down Jar

Place as many jelly beans, pennies, buttons or whatever you like, as the number of days your soldier will be gone into a big jar. Each day take one out and see the jar empty as the day till his return draws near.

I have faith, and so does my nephew and his family, and that will for sure get us through this. He is a great man with a good head on his shoulders. We are all so proud of him.

I will say extra prayers, just the same, and perhaps shed a few extra tears.

- Lorri Glawe is a Pilot-Tribune staffwriter and pens a weekly column for readers. She can be reached at lglawe@stormlakepilottribune.com