Guardsman spending Christmas in Kosovo

Sunday, December 16, 2001

SCOTT CITY, Mo.

It's been more than 14 days since Don Cobb has seen the sun and much longer since he's seen his family.

Cobb, Chaffee's police chief, has been on active duty with the National Guard since late August, assigned to peacekeeping during a cold, dark winter in Kosovo.

This is the second Christmas Teresa and Don Cobb have spent apart since they married in 1990.

He served as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne during the Persian Gulf War, spending Christmas of 1991 sleeping on the ground in Saudi Arabia.

This year, he cut an evergreen branch and set it up as a Christmas tree in his barracks.

Appointed as police chief in Chaffee in August 2000, Cobb's National Guard unit began training for a possible Kosovo mission in early August this year.

When terrorists attacked the United States Sept. 11 and the president declared war on terrorism, Cobb knew he was headed overseas.

Speaking by telephone Saturday from Fort Bondsdale in southern Kosovo, Don Cobb said he's nearly halfway through a six-month tour of duty.

"It's like we're working the world's largest domestic dispute," he said, referring to the long-standing feud between ethnic Albanians and Serbians.

"But at least now he gets a bed and a bath every day," Teresa Cobb said. "And I know he's coming home."

Cobb's been counting her blessings lately. At the top of the list is the couple's two sons, Joshua, 6, and Caleb, 3.

Saturday, Joshua was drawing pictures of a house surrounded by a green lawn and Easter eggs. His father is scheduled to come home in the spring.

Community support

Though her husband is missing Joshua's first year in kindergarten and the boys' first violin recital, Teresa says there's a great deal to be thankful for, including a large support group in the community -- headed by her parents, Larry and Stella Taylor, and Don's mother, Judy Cobb.

Still, it hasn't been easy. Two weeks before her husband was to leave, Teresa fell, breaking her left arm and requiring surgery. Complications from the injury left the radial nerve damaged and the strength in that arm and hand drained. Healing has been slow.

As a result, she lost her salary as an occupational therapist. She works with children and was unable to lift them during treatment. Even now, her abilities with that arm are so limited she's able to see only a fraction of her clients.

But that was enough to cut off disability payments, and her insurance is nearing the end of its coverage.

"If the city of Chaffee hadn't been so good to us, I don't know what we would have done," she said. A mortgage and two children would have been too much to handle on a military salary and her own reduced pay.

Salary coming in

When they learned he was being sent overseas, the city council voted to continue Don Cobb's salary as police chief. He keeps in communication with the department via e-mail and telephones every 48 hours.

She said she sometimes feels overwhelmed by the responsibility.

"I don't know how single moms do it. I really don't," she said.

Don Cobb's colleagues on the police force look out for her, and the couple's church has also been supportive, she said.

With all the goodwill surrounding her, she was still surprised when she received a large cash donation tucked into an unsigned Christmas card last week. She and her husband both have their ideas where it came from.

"He thinks he knows and I think I know, but we're each thinking of different people," she said.

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: