Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Bonding carries across the generations

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Jim and Terri Moore (left) in their Mason back yard with fellow grandparents Brenda and Brian Langdon of Milford and grandchild Joshua Grimes, 15 months.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
MASON - Two local couples are showering their grandson, Joshua, with extra hugs and kisses these days.

The tight embraces with the 15-month-old toddler are their most meaningful connection to his parents - Senior Airman Angie Grimes, 22, now stationed in Qatar, and her husband, John, also with the U.S. Air Force, who will leave his Louisiana military base soon for a six-month assignment in southern Iraq.

While the fighting in Iraq has wound down, their worries linger. It's the same for dozens of other Tristate families, as young children are entrusted to their grandparents' care because one parent or the other - or both - must serve their country overseas.

And while the Department of Defense has no precise numbers for how many of the 300,000 troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom are parents, officials say many have children.

Joshua's always there to ground Jim and Terri Moore of Mason and Brian and Brenda Langdon of Milford. The couples are Angie's parents and step-parents

The rambunctious tot with his mother's big brown eyes still wobbles when he walks. The adults hug him tight, aware that they're creating a special bond that will last the rest of their lives.

"It's more important to make him feel loved because he's away from his mom and dad," Terri Moore said. "One day he'll grow up and be real proud. (And) we have a bond now that will always be there."

Before departing for war, military personnel must fill out paperwork indicating a preferred guardian for their children, said Chaplain Jim Sizemore of the Ohio National Guard.

John and Angie Grimes
"Usually it's a grandparent who will help take care of (the children) while they are deployed," Sizemore said. "They go through a lot of different emotions. Usually with military families, they're pretty much used to (this). They're not without emotional distress, but it's not as traumatic."

Since February, when Joshua was entrusted to their care, the daily routine for the Moores has switched into high gear. The working parents were already active because of their 9-year-old daughter's sports activities.

Now, nurturing Joshua has become part of the daily mix. They're changing diapers, putting the child down for naps and seeing him through new teeth. Every other weekend, the Langdons give the couple a break and care for Joshua.

When Joshua's parents call, they crave any little tidbit about him. Brian Langdon's heart wrenched when he saw the child rush toward some relatives who are the same age and height as Joshua's mother.

"It's a very odd feeling. You wonder, 'Is he thinking about his mommy,' " said Langdon, who divorced Angie's mom, Terri, about two decades ago.

But it's a whole lot better than those life-altering days when President Bush ordered airstrikes on Baghdad.

"It was kind of scary, really. I was watching news nonstop," Langdon said. "Every time I looked at (Joshua), I thought of (Angie) and how she was as a baby."

Lindalee Garrison, 48, of Covington, understands his pain. An Army veteran herself, Garrison is minding her two granddaughters - Alexia, 5, and Mia, 3 - while their parents are in Iraq.

The girls often cry because they miss their parents, who are serving in the Army.

Garrison has started writing letters to comfort the girls. They appear to be signed by their parents.

She loves to see their joyous reactions.

"You have to become close. You have to make sure they have some sort of stability," Garrison said. "It not only helps them, it really helps you as a person. It helps you get by, day by day."

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