Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Military families wait, worry


With lives on line, soldiers' parents divided over war

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Those in the Tristate who might have listened most intently to President Bush's ultimatum Monday night to Iraq's Saddam Hussein are the parents of the young American men and women in uniform.

Karen Daniels of Melbourne is unsettled by the prospect of war.

Her son Erik Daniels, 21, is a Marine corporal, a member of a scout sniper platoon.

He has been in the Kuwaiti desert since mid-February, and his platoon is likely to be heavily involved in the push by U.S. military troops into Iraq.

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"Just the fact that he is a sniper is worrisome," Karen Daniels said.

"But he is well-trained; he knows what he is doing.

"We kind of knew it was coming, but, in a way, you hope it doesn't," she said.

Daniels said that although her son's life may be on the line, she understands why Bush made the decision to take military action.

"We may have mixed feelings about it, but I don't know what the alternative is at this point," she said.

Nancy Finley of Golf Manor - an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam era - has a son, Glenn Raibon, who is with the Army's special forces in Afghanistan.

Finley said she thinks the president has failed to make a credible case that Saddam Hussein "is any threat to us whatsoever.

"I'm behind the troops, but I'm not behind Bush," Finley said.

"There is no proof that this man, Saddam Hussein, has done anything to harm this country. And we are going to put American lives on the line for this?

"It's crazy."

Others, however, say they believe Iraq is a threat that must be dealt with - even if their own children must do the fighting.

Nancy and Mark Dickinson of Wilmington had two very good reasons to listen carefully to what Bush had to say Monday night.

Her son, William Mitten, 19, is a private in the 27th Engineering Battalion, serving in Afghanistan; his son, Matthew Dickinson, is a 21-year-old private in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed in Kuwait.

If war breaks out, Matthew Dickinson is likely to be in the middle of it.

"Frankly, I wish things could work out so that they would not have to do this," Mark Dickinson said.

Both Nancy and Mark Dickinson say they support the president's decision, even if it means war.

"He wouldn't commit the lives of so many soldiers if he didn't feel it was absolutely necessary," Nancy Dickinson said.

Still, there is apprehension in the Dickinson home.

"To be honest, I'm a little scared," Nancy Dickinson said.

Mark Dickinson said he is convinced Saddam Hussein has brought war on himself by failing to disarm.

"I think there must be things that our government knows about - things that they can't put out to the public - about the weapons that Saddam Hussein has; and that's why the president believes we have to do this now,'' Mark Dickinson said.

Jill Strub of Finneytown listened to Bush Monday night with a sense of dread, knowing the impact the president's decision would have on her family.

Her son, 21-year-old Chris Strub, is a Marine reservist.

A month ago, his company was shipped out to Kuwait, and Chris Strub has spent several weeks living in a tent in the heat and dust storms near the Kuwait-Iraq border.

"I kind of had my heart in my throat," Jill Strub said after the president's address.

"I wish this could be taken care of diplomatically, but that's obviously not working.

"There seems to be no way around war."

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com

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