Marine's injury takes toll on mom

Friday, April 11, 2003

When Edna Smith's phone rang Sunday night, a voice on the line asked her if she was the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Fredrick Evans.

She paused the movie in her VCR and put a hand on a table to steady herself.

Smith answered quickly, "Yes. How is he? Is he all right?"

The Scott City mother was told by a military spokesman that her youngest son was injured in Iraq earlier that day, but the spokesman assured her the young man was recovering from surgery. Evans, 20, was standing next to a truck when a bomb struck it. He was hit by shrapnel and lost two toes on his right foot.

"He said he hurt all over, but that his foot felt especially weird," Smith said of the conversation she had with the military official. "Then he looked down and saw a chunk of his boot was missing. He went for a foxhole and remembered yelling for help, but the next thing he knew he woke up in a hospital in Spain."

In a living room adorned with large photos of her four children, Smith has done a lot of crying since Sunday night, both tears of worry and relief. Learning her son was injured has taken its toll.

"I did not hardly get much sleep those first few days after that call," Smith said. "I cried that he was OK and I cried that he was injured."

"I was happy that it was a phone call rather than someone at the door for the other reason, you know," she said. "I prayed he'd come home alive, but I've always known what else could happen."

Evans graduated in 2001 from Romeoville High School in Romeoville, Ill. He spent his final school years there living with his father, Thomas L. Evans. But it didn't take him long to find his future with the Marines, Smith said of her son. He signed up on the Saturday before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I knew ahead of time he was going to go into the military, and I was always proud of him for it," she said.

She is anxious for her son's return, which should be within a month, she said. But before he returns to Romeoville, Evans will be awarded a Purple Heart for his injury.

"I'm going to hug him, cry my eyes out and tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him," she said.

The family also is hoping Evans can visit Scott City for his sister Tonya Parker's high school graduation in May. Parker misses her brother's enthusiasm for life.

Personal struggles

"He's the kind that is always going to have fun, be excited and be hyper," she said.

Evans is used to dealing with difficulties in life, his mother said. He was born with a heart murmur and struggled with dyslexia in school. But he didn't let a learning difficulty stand in his way of becoming a computer technician with the Marines. He also has learned Spanish, she said.

"What would take other people four years of college to learn, he did in less than a year," Smith said.

mwells@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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