Military moms

Sunday, May 9, 2004

It's part of the job for mothers to worry about their children. But Carolyn Verble of Wolf Lake, Ill., has been worrying overtime since her son, Levi Wampler, was called to fight the war on terrorism a year ago.

But unlike other military mothers who won't be with their children on Mother's Day, Verble is getting the best gift ever: a visit with her 25-year-old son.

"This is fantastic," she said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

Wampler, who is a member of the National Guard, returned home Saturday after more than a year in Iraq. His unit first served in Kuwait and then moved to Iraq over the summer.

During that time, he and Verble have sent e-mail messages and tried to keep in touch, but sometimes knowing where he was working and where the fighting was heaviest was even tougher.

Verble said the past year has been a roller coaster ride of emotions: anticipation of her son's unit's call to active duty, fear about his safety and well-being, and trepidation when she hears the latest news from the war.

"It's been awful. I don't want another year like it," she said.

Verble is only one of dozens of military moms in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois whose children are members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

More significanceAnd perhaps because their children are away, this holiday has more significance for area military moms.

Being part of a military family is tough. "The military is good to them but it's a rough life on families because of the separation," said Jan Roth of Cape Girardeau, whose son Brian Fredenburg is stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

So far, her son hasn't been called to active duty overseas. "But you never know from day to day," she said. Not a day goes by when her son isn't on her mind.

And with the Pentagon's recent announcement that 135,000 American troops in Iraq will remain there until the end of 2005, the worrying and waiting for these mothers continues.

Life is a little scary now, said Dee Perry whose son-in-law serves in Afghanistan. With all the fighting and threats from insurgents there, "you're always curious and always wondering." The family's days are spent reading newspapers, watching television news reports and checking Web sites for information, she said.

Perry's daughter, Laurie Everett, spent four years in the military serving in Germany and Bosnia. She recently returned home to Cape Girardeau, and Perry is looking forward to spending Mother's Day with her daughter.

"We'll enjoy the day at home; it'll be a good one," she said.

Karen Blattner got her Mother's Day gift a little bit early this year when her son, Donnie, made a visit back home about three weeks ago.

Donnie Blattner hadn't seen his mother or family in two years because he spent a year stationed in Washington state before being sent to Iraq.

"When he got his orders, he didn't want us to come see him before he left because he said it would be harder when he had to go," Karen Blattner said.

335-6611, extension 126

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