Monday, May 26, 2003

Stories of heat, and of helping,
fill letters home


Sycamore grad is third generation to serve in wartime military

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When SPC Holly Bebout left the Fort Thomas Army Reserve Center in February with her 478th Engineer Battalion for a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, her parents, Tom and Charlene Bebout, had no doubt that their 22-year-old daughter would do her duty. But, today, three months later, from the occasional handwritten letters that land in the Montgomery couple's mail box, they have no doubt their daughter has seen enough of Iraq.

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SPC Holly Bebout, deployed to Iraq in February, poses with her father Tom and grandfather Paul. They also served in active military during wartime.
(Photo submitted)
| ZOOM |
"Well, I know what hell feels like," the Army Reserve medic wrote her parents on April 5 from a spot in southern Iraq, about 100 miles south of Baghdad. "It was 130 degrees yesterday.

"It's hot as hell, dirty and dusty, but, at night time, the stars are amazing.''

Bebout has seen those stars on many nights as part of a convoy that travels from Camp 93 in northern Kuwait, carrying supplies to once-obscure Iraqi towns that have become familiar names to Americans - Umm Qasr, Kut, Nasiriyah.

She is the third generation of Bebouts to serve in the military in time of war - her father was on active duty during the first Persian Gulf War, teaching at the Fort Knox armor school; her grandfather, Paul Bebout of McConnellsville, Ohio, was one of the legendary "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division in World War II.

After graduating from Sycamore High School in 1998, Bebout told her father that if she went off to college, "you'd be wasting your money." Instead, she joined the Army Reserves, went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, trained as a medic and joined the 478th.

In February, the deployment orders came.

She was first at Camp Coyote in Kuwait, but, when the shooting war started, she was one of the medics attached to a Navy Seabee unit and moved closer to the Iraq border.

During much of her time in Kuwait and Iraq, Bebout has been paired up with a good friend, SPC Erin Cole of Fort Thomas.

In mid-April, though, the two friends were separated while Cole went on a mission into Baghdad.

"She saw the Saddam statue which was beheaded and cracked, missing an arm," Bebout wrote her parents on April 14. "She said the streets were covered in blood and Saddam's pictures were all scratched and defaced.

"She said people were flooding the streets and she could hardly drive because there were so many people in the streets cheering."

Her friend Cole also saw "groups of older guys standing on corners with their arms crossed, just staring. They didn't really have a threat, but those were people you watch and wonder what they will do next."

On Easter weekend, her unit put together a holiday feast of omelettes, potatoes and bacon, beef gravy on bread, and orange juice.

"I dressed up as the Easter bunny, which made people laugh because they didn't think I'd do it," wrote Bebout, although she didn't explain to her parents how an Easter Bunny suit turned up in a military camp in an Islamic country.

The soldiers and sailors Bebout travel with are well aware of the history of Iraq and its reputation as the "cradle of civilization," but, living as they do with intense heat and sandstorms, they are generally not much impressed.

"It is very prehistoric and biblical here," Bebout wrote. "We all agreed that if this was the start of civilization, Adam should have asked for his rib back and killed himself."

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com.




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