Responses poured over the last month after the Enquirer invited Tristaters to share the stories of military service. The military women and men wrote of pride in mission and pain of being away from family. Moms and dads wrote of profound respect and love for their children who chose to serve. These are excerpts from the many responses received, edited for length and clarity.
The troops ...
Dear Mom, Dad, Em, and Bill:
It is 60-70 degrees during the day here and it drops down to about 20-40 degrees at night. Or at least it feels that way . . .
They had the Super Bowl on this morning at 0200. I chose to sleep instead of watching it. I can just see all of you making fun of my writing but I want you to hold on to these letters for me to add to my journal.
Morale is rather high. We started a rumor that Bob Hope was coming with some Playboy Playmates to entertain us. In one day the whole post was talking about it.
We are out here in the middle of nowhere. The desert out here is nothing like the pictures you see. The ground is hard and rocky and not a fine sand like you would think. You see scrub bushes growing here and there.
I got my small pox vaccine today - all 15 pricks. ... I'm teaching myself Arabic but it is very hard to learn. The food here is so bland that it tastes like Styrofoam.
P.S. Care package items you can send: 35mm film, family pictures, Kool Aid with sugar, toothpaste, razor blades, gummy candies, magazines [no pictures of scantily clad women or men], Bible, envelopes, writing paper.
Spc. Scott Sawyers, 23;
11th Engineers, U.S. Army;
Son of Claire and Tim Sawyers, Anderson Township
My name is TSgt Dwayne L. Watson Jr. and I'm stationed overseas in the United Kingdom at RAF Lakenheath. I was born and raised in Cincinnati and my family is still there.
Watson, with fiance
I have deployed before to the Middle East twice, once for Operation Southern Watch and last October to Turkey for Enduring Freedom. I can't say anything right now about possible deployments.
I am getting married May 17 here in England to SSgt Jeannette Dahling, who I met here at work.
I'm a structural maintenance craftsman working on all structural aspects of the F15C and F15E fighter aircraft. Life at RAF Lakenheath is extremely hectic, we deploy all over the world for all kinds of contingencies from air to air missions and air to ground, real world and training missions. These aircraft require a lot of maintenance to keep flying.
England is an interesting place to be stationed, I've been here four years and plan on at least two more. We have an important mission here at Lakenheath and I believe that we do it quite well.
I sure do miss Gold Star and LaRosa's, though.
Tech. Sgt. Dwayne L. Watson Jr., 40;
U.S. Air Force;
I am Rob Hecht and serving in the Air Force out of Ramstein Airbase Germany. I'm just one of a few Cincinnatians stationed here.
I am a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and a proud product of the ROTC detachment there. ...
I really want to say that we support our leadership and are prepared to do our duty, whatever that may be and whenever that may come. Of course, out of operational concerns, I can't say when and where we are going, but we look forward to the opportunity to serve and make a difference.
It is my hope and firm belief that great goodwill come out of this possible conflict and a greater chance for a real and lasting peace in the Middle East will prevail in the end. While I understand the desire for a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi problem, I know that Saddam Hussein will not willingly comply with the world's mandate to destroy his nation's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. If we really want peace we may have to resort to force and must be prepared to do so.
All I really ask is for my fellow Cincinnatians and Tristaters to think of us and support us. We are there for you, the United States and the world.
I have my pictures of my family, Reds hat, UC mug and a few cans of Skyline Chili to hold me over.
My regards to all in the Queen City!
Maj. Robert B. Hecht;
32d Air Intelligence Squadron, U.S. Air Force;
Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Hello, I am a 28-year-old graduate of Mount Healthy High School Class of '92. In March 1995, I joined the Active Army. We are currently on assignment orders to the Persian Gulf Theatre of Operations. I will be leaving behind a wife (Tiffany) who has stood behind me during training deployments, now she stands beside me during a real world deployment with our 4-week old daughter (Paige Noelle). I also leave many relatives in Cincinnati and Columbus. They are my Mom, two brothers, two step-brothers, Grandma, many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I have a special place in my heart for the city of Cincinnati. I have been to some of the most beautiful and exotic places in the world and I know that I when I retire, I will once again live in the most beautiful place in the world with all my family and friends.
I just hope that the people of Cincinnati do not forget what I and my fellow soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors have and continue to put on the line for our freedoms.
Staff Sgt. Kimber Todd Roberts, 28, U.S. Army;
Son of Linda Roberts, Mount Airy, and Leon Roberts,
Hot Springs, Ark.
I am a 21-year-old sailor in the United States Navy. I have been in for almost 10 months now, working as part of the base security in Groton, CT.
I haven't seen my family or friends and even been home since I left in May. Life is hard being away from all your family and friends and all the things that are familiar to you. ...
My first actual job in the Navy has been security working with base police, sitting out there in that dangerous cold weather making sure no bombs, terrorists, or unauthorized things get inside the area. ...
People would be proud to know that I'm out here serving not just my country, but my city as well. I'm from the Over-the-Rhine community, right on Elm by Findlay Market. I've witnessed all the unrest that happened a while ago. I've even met some people who were victims of that unrest; they've joked with me saying I was part of it. We work together here on this base. I believe that things will be better...
I do this for my country, most people wouldn't do this in my neighborhood, but I also do this for family, for friends, and for self. ...
Seaman Anthony Johnson,
21, U.S. Navy;
Son of Valerie Johnson,
and Anthony Louis, Forest Park
I was born in Cincinnati and lived pretty much my whole life in Milford, Ohio.
My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. I am 35 years old and have been in the U.S. Navy for just over 16 years.
I graduated from Milford Christian Academy in 1985. ... I decided to join the Navy in November, 1986.
I'm now at AEGIS Training and Readiness Center Detachment Yokosuka, Japan. My next duty station is going to be the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Indianapolis, IN. I served in Desert Shield and in the Arabian Gulf.
I have a wife Rozonna Johnson (Smith), and three wonderful children, Trevor, 9; Trent, 7; and Olivia, 5. My family and I have lived in Japan almost three years. So far we have had the experience of a lifetime. We have enjoyed ourselves here and have seen why the USA is the greatest country on earth. Although Japan has been a great time, there is no place like home!
I have been proud to serve my country and continue to look forward to serving several more years.
Operations Specialist Chief Bobby Johnson, 35, U.S. Navy
I graduated from Highlands High School in Fort Thomas in 1999. I am now a senior airman in the Air Force and I am stationed at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy with my husband. Martin is a tank commander for the German Army Reserve.
Life is very interesting for us these days. Not only are our two nations at odds about a possible situation in Iraq, but Martin and I will become parents when I deliver our first child in August.
I often read about people complaining that my generation doesn't have the motivation, courage and willingness to sacrifice to get through this current situation. Those people have obviously never been on a military installation, and have never seen their military in action.
I see the very best of my generation hard at work every day, and it makes me so proud to be among them.
As for life at home, talks of war and politics don't happen at the kitchen table at our house, or so Martin and I tell ourselves. ... We've learned there's a time and place to express our views. And when we do, it's really invigorating.
I think being married to an European has really opened up my mind and made me better understand my own country and my own sense of patriotism. We plan to raise our child a citizen of the world, someone who is proud of his or her American and German heritage. ...
You won't find people more eager for peace than those serving in the military. However, those in uniform also know that sometimes, any peace is not better than any war.
Senior Airman Julie Stulz Weckerlein, 22,
U.S. Air Force, Aviano Air Base;
Daughter of Larry and Linda Stulz of Madeira, Tawana Thomas of Covington
Steven Ludwig of North Bend describes of life on board the USS Cushing, a U.S. Navy destroyer in Japan. Excerpts:
If you would like to know what life is like aboard ship ...
Buy a dumpster, paint it gray and live in it for six months straight.
Run all of the piping and wires inside your house on the outside of the walls.
Raise your bed to within six inches of the ceiling.
Have your neighbor collect all your mail for month, randomly losing every fifth item.
Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.
Sew back pockets to the front of your pants.
When your children are in bed, run into their rooms with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your house is under attack and order them to man their battle stations.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Ludwig, 21;
USS Cushing, U.S. Navy;
Son of Greg and Teri Ludwig of North Bend
The parents ...
Michael Hensley, a graduate of Northwest High School, is a captain in the U.S. Army. He has been deployed to Kuwait as an executive officer in command of tanks and other armed vehicles to escort Gen. William Scott Wallace.
His mother, Patricia Hensley of West Harrison, Ind., writes:
Michael was due to come home in March but because of the war situation a stop-movement order was put in place and that homecoming has been put on hold.
We are very proud of our son and miss him very much but we realize that he loves what he is doing and he knows he has a job to do. Our main line of communication with Michael has been e-mail. There are times when we have received several e-mails in a week and then other weeks nothing.
We have been fortunate that he has been able to contact us by phone every couple of weeks. Our connections have not been good at times and sometimes we are disconnected during our conversations but there is nothing better than hearing his voice.
Patricia Hensley, West Harrison, Ind,
Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Arnold is on board the USS Anzio in the Mediterranean Sea. His father, Sam Arnold, writes:
I am so proud that you are part of America that will destroy this threat and allow us to go to bed at night and feel safe again. I know this will not be pleasant and some innocent people will die but we didn't start this and we must prevent this from ever happening again.
We have always come to the aid of others when no one else would. This is who we are. There are those in this country who think this war is not necessary but we know different.
When all of you come home and the battle is won, we will welcome you as heroes. If you need a seat on the bus, you can have mine, if you are in line at a restaurant, you can take my place in front of me. If I see you in a bar and I have the honor of meeting you, let me buy you a drink...
Stay safe and stay focused and I will see you soon.
With all my love, Dad
Sam Arnold, Fairfield
I have a son on his way to Iraq as I write this e-mail to you. He is a sergeant with Force Recon Special Forces in the U.S. Marine Corps.
It's a hard thing to do: watching your son leave and knowing that he is more than likely going to war. When it comes home to you, there is suddenly a deeper and more profound respect and admiration for those families of past wars who sent sons and daughters into battle for this country.
The rest of the world sees Chris as a United States Marine, as do I. However, I also see the kid who roamed center field at various ballparks here in Clermont County for many years. It only seems like yesterday that I was attending his games and cheering him on. We are fiercely proud of our courageous son and ask that the prayers of America be with him and his (military) brothers... May God bless America.
Steven Woodward, Union Township
@ The Front
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