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  Local families wait as loved ones fight a war a half a world away
 By Kehn Gibson,  The Tri-County Courier, April 2, 2003

12 March, 2003 (April 3 update is included)

Nearly eight years ago, Stephanie Loghry was one of two valedictorians for her graduating class at Tulelake High School.

Today she is somewhere in Kuwait, a supply sergeant with the 101st Airborne, a unit poised to provide the iron hand should the velvet glove of diplomacy fail.

Amid the rhetoric and saber-rattling surrounding weapons inspections in Iraq, with the resultant news blasts blaring the latest, Stephanie adds something overlooked.

She puts a face to the talk of war.

When she was deployed to Kuwait Feb. 27 ó with little notice, but thatís how the military does things óStephanie left behind her husband, Jason, her one-year-old son, Alex, and her parents, Denise and Dennis Chambers of Tulelake.

Dennis said he found out Stephanie had gone when Jason called "at midnight."

"He was really excited, so I didnít find out much from him," Dennis said Monday. "He said she called it a big desert out there."

"She hasnít us called yet," said Denise, using a tone of voice reserved for mothers.

Until that call arrives, Denise has taken to the Internet, digging through news websites for information on the 101st Airborne Division and getting tips from friends who watch television reports.

She was able to discover the 101st is stationed in Camp New Jersey. Just where Camp New Jersey is remains unclear. A report Denise found on CNNís website locates the camp "in the desert of Kuwait."

Denise said she watches the evening news for information too, and finds herself "looking at the people they show a lot more than normal." At times, Denise said, she has had to turn it off.

"They were showing soldiers sending messages to their families, and that was hard to see," Denise said. "Then a woman came on and said goodbye to her baby, and I couldnít watch anymore."

Stephanie entered the military more than four years ago, after leaving the Klamath Basin and finding work in a plywood mill while attending school at Lane Community College in Eugene. After four years there, Denise said Stephanie said "enough is enough."

"She joined the Army to go to school, to get money for college," Denise said. "She re-enlisted in April."

Stephanie qualified for training to become a sergeant, and passed her oral examinations before the order to ship out came.

Both Dennis and Denise were hesitant to comment on the protests against a possible war with Iraq ó"We are always going to have somebody protesting something," Dennis said ó yet they admit the Iraq situation is personal for them.

While avoiding a debate on the issue of war, Denise was firm in her belief that, if our soldiers are there, we should support them.

"They are our kids, doing a job they have been asked to do," Denise said. "Since they are there, people should back them.

"Iím not thinking about this politically," Denise said. "I think of it with Stephanie and Alex. I worry about my grandbaby.

"He misses her so much," Denise said. "Whenever she goes away he just cries and cries. He is the one I worry about."

Denise said Alexís first birthday, March 6, came a week after Stephanie left for Kuwait.

"She missed his first birthday, and now she may miss his first walk, his first words."

In the sunlit kitchen of her home on Copic Bay, Deniseís voice trailed off.

Although their daughter may have to go in harmís way, Dennis sums up the situation like a farmer; accepting the facts as he knows them yet seasoning them with his faith in Stephanie.

"Steph is a survivor, sheíll come out of this all right," Dennis said. "Women arenít supposed to be in combat, and she says she wonít be.

"But they are there, and who knows what will happen."

On Feb. 25, 1991 a Scud missile fired from Iraq struck a temporary barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The barracks housed reserve Army units awaiting assignment during the Gulf War.

In the largest single loss of the Desert Storm campaign, 28 soldiers were killed and 99 wounded in the blast.

Three of the dead were women.

The possibility of chemical weapons, which Iraq has used in the past, being targeted on advancing American forces further blurs the distinction between the forward lines and the rear.

In the Klamath Basin, its history so closely intertwined with veterans who came home from war and sons who never will, the personal sacrifice of the Chambers is both respected and expected.

Yet that is small comfort to a mother who must wait at home, combing the Internet for information and squinting at dusty soldiers on the nightly newscasts for a glimpse of her little girl.

Stephanie, when you get a safe moment, call your Mom.

3 April
Sgt. Loghry found a safe moment and called Denise Chambers March 28. She said she was fine, and that all goes well. She even emailed a couple of photographs.

On March 30, CNN reported that rear elements of the 101st Airborne Division were moved north into Iraq. It is believed Sgt. Loghry was included in those movements.
Sgt. Stephanie Loghry
    HHC 159th AVN BDE
    Unit #96128
    APO AE 09393-6128

April 3, 2003
She sits on her living room floor, legs crossed, speaking with intense longing into the tiny cell phone.

She tells her Daddy she loves him, and wants him to come home soon. She blows a kiss into the phone.

Her name is Natasha Carroll. She is not quite two years old. The cell phone is her favorite toy these days, said Candice Carroll.

Candice is Mom to Natasha and the wife of Pvt. Shane Carroll of the Third Infantry Division, currently on duty about 50 miles south of Baghdad.

While Shane, a former resident of Malin, is overseas Candice and Natasha wait at the Third Infantryís home base at Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Candice spoke by telephone with The Courier Sunday.

"Natasha is doing okay, I guess," said Candice. "She calls for her Daddy a lot. She goes to the bottom of the stairs and yells for him, because he is usually upstairs taking a shower."

When asked how she is doing, Candice pauses.

"I donít want to cry," she said, the sound of tears coming through the telephone. "I miss him walking through the door, I miss his blue eyes, as blue as the sky. I miss everything about him.

"Itís hard to be tough."

Candice last heard from Shane March 9, when he called during a trip into a supply base in Kuwait.

"He was getting some stuff, because he knew he was leaving," Candice said. "He was real frustrated during that call, because his unit had been there so long and hadnít moved. He wanted to get it done so he could come home."

Shaneís father, Tom Carroll of Malin, hasnít heard from Shane since Jan. 6, when he shipped out. Upon hearing the news, Tom went to the Flower Spot in Merrill and bought a big yellow ribbon and wrapped it around a large willow tree in front of his home.

In the weeks since, like so many, Tom has become "glued" to news reports.

"I watch the news more than I should," Tom said. "Iím worried about it. Somebody is shooting at my son and I canít do anything about it."

Tom explained that Shaneís job is driving a Humvee loaded with ammunition for the Third Divisionís M1-A Abrams tanks.

"Shane is right behind the tanks," Tom said. "When the tanks run out, they come back to him, he doesnít go out to them.

"He takes a lot of pride in what heís doing, he commits himself totally," Tom continued. "He doesnít like being there, but heís doing this for his country."

On Saturday, four soldiers of the Third Division were killed at a checkpoint when a man drove up in a taxi and reportedly waved the soldiers closer. As they drew near, the man detonated a bomb.

On Sunday afternoon, the names of the soldiers had yet to be released. Although outwardly dismissive of the fear, Tom couldnít stop pacing the living room of his neatly kept home.

"How do you train a soldier for that?" Tom asked. "How do you train a soldier for a situation where they hold a baby up while somebody else fires at you from behind?

"I keep telling myself I sent a boy to war, and a man will come home."

Late Sunday, the soldiersí names were released. Although Shane was spared, four other families were not.

The tension is felt by many, Candice said. She said she has three friends on the base at Ft. Stewart who, like her, are waiting for their husbands to come home. One couldnít handle the stress, and left to go home to her family.

"She has three little girls," and needed to be around her family," Candice said. "Shaneís sister is here with me, and that helps a lot."

Candice wanted to thank the people of Malin, Merrill and Tulelake for thinking of Shane.

"I am so glad to know we arenít the only ones who care, the only ones who pray they all come home," Candice said, tears coming now without shame. "We are all waiting, and we will wait for as long as it takes."

Natasha will turn two on June 14. By then, hopefully, the cell phone will be replaced with new toys that hold her interest.

PV2 Carroll

C1/3 ADA

Unit #9322

APO AE 09303-3322

"Sometimes, I feel guilty," said Javier Cobian. "If I hadnít let him go, he wouldnít be in this situation."

Javier is talking about his 22-year-old son Mario, a 1999 graduate of Lost River High School.

Yet Javier admits there was no real chance of dissuading Mario from joining the Marine Corps, where he is a combat engineer with the First Battalion of the Seventh Marine Division, currently in battle around the town of An Nasirya in Iraq.

"He talked about his duty, his obligation to this country," Javier said. "His grandfather was a Marine, and that figured into his decision, I think."

In the flower-filled living room of his home on the outskirts of Merrill, Javier sits down to talk, and invites his 16-year-old son, Daniel, to sit with him.

Tensions between Javier and Daniel have been intense in recent weeks, Javier said.

"I think Daniel believes I love Mario more than him, but that isnít so," Javier said. "I am not good at showing my emotions, and I have been worrying a lot about Mario lately. But I know how I feel inside"

"We fight about everything," Daniel said. "But lately, he has been talking with me more. Itís kinda weird.

"Mario is real low key, very down to earth," Daniel said. "Iím more up and down. When Dad tells me to go find a job, I understand that, but I donít want to go to work at this place just because thatís where Mario got a job. I want to find my own."

When asked what he thinks of Mario, Danielís tone changes as quickly as only a 16-year-oldís can, and the pride in his older brother resonates.

"He is doing a job he has been trained to do, and heís with a good bunch of guys that look out for him," Daniel said. "Heís out there risking his life, doing what he needs to do."

Javier watches as Daniel speaks, a subtle pride of his own shining in his eyes.

Excusing himself momentarily, Javier returns with a packet of photographs and three well worn letters. The last, dated Feb. 28, was written Feb. 24.

In it, Mario writes of his strong desire for "tall white socks," and foot powder.

"Itís real hard to take care of my feet out here," Mario says.

All three letters bear cryptic postmarks that reveal nothing about where they were sent from, and Mario does not reveal specifics.

"This was the last I heard from him," Javier said.

Javier said Mario is trained in demolitions, and shows one picture of his eldest son reclining casually on a bin of high explosives, a big grin on his face.

"He tells me he is not uncomfortable around explosives anymore, he is not afraid," Javier said, gently shaking his head as he looks at the picture. Suddenly somber, Javier said it was Marioís job to destroy obstacles and minefields before Marines could move forward.

"I worry a lot, but I think that is what parents do," Javier said. "We canít do a lot, but we can support him, help him that way.

"Like any other parent, I worry about how things are going over there," Javier said. "No one wants to hear bad news, but I must watch television."

Javier said some of his best memories of Mario were when he was four years old.

"When I was working in the yard, he would follow behind me, making the same motions I was, doing what I was doing," Javier said. "Once, when we were sitting in the shade of a tree on a hot day, I fell asleep. Mario laid down on top of me, and fell asleep too. I have a picture of that too, somewhere."

Lcpl Mario V. Cobian

HQ Co. 7th Marines

(C Co. 1st CEB)

UTC 39761

FPO AE 96426-9761

Itís been said that an advantage of joining the U.S. Navy is that your bunk travels with you.

Donít tell that to Rudy Idrogo. The Tulelake native is attached to the Marine Expeditionary Force as a medical corpsman, and has been "in country" for nearly three months.

In the last two weeks, the Marine Expeditionary Force has been involved in numerous firefights with the Feydayeen Saddam in the small towns that lie along the Euphrates River south of Baghdad.

"He is right on the front lines," said Cuca Idrogo, Rudyís mother. "I worry about the unknown, but I know heís there helping the ones who need it."

For 22 years Cuca was a hair stylist in Tulelake, and moved in September 2001 to Medford. "Tulelake is where I raised my family," Cuca said. "Six boys and two girls. I miss it."

Cuca said she last heard from Rudy three weeks ago in a phone call, and his questions brought her an insight into how little is known to those on the point of the sword.

"He was asking me if I had heard anything about if we were going to war," she said. "He didnít know."

As Cuca waits for further word from Rudy she, as have many others, has become an inveterate news watcher.

"Every day I watch," she said. "I hope to see him. I look closely at the soldiers, I try to see his face."

Cuca said the news reports of recent anti-war protests in cities like San Francisco and Portland make her sad.

"If it wasnít for these young men, just like all the veterans who have gone before them, they wouldnít be able to protest," she said. "They wouldnít be free."

IdrogoRudyH.N. USN

HNS, Co. 3-4, Sect. BAS

UIC 39781

FPO AP 56426-9781

 

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