When my wife and I got up early this morning — Day 6 of Gulf II — we were proud to see the crawl on the TV screen: A-10 Warthogs foiled an ambush and provided close air support for the 7th Cavalry crossing the Euphrates River. We couldn’t help but wonder if the pilots were from Battle Creek, and if our son and his buddies helped launch them.
Ian sent us two e-mails overnight (morning his time), and there was a considerable mood swing between them. His first e-mail was a chipper note to the family:
Jim’s flag came back. I have the certificate that says it went up during the operation and know he’ll like it.
I hear I got one box … need to pick it up today. Hope it has chocolate! Now I have to get to work.
The second e-mail was written some hours later to his family and friends. It was called “POW”:
This morning has been dark for me and the others.
I walked up to a friend of mine to find him crying. He knows and works with one of the POWs.
I launched out the pilot who was flying next to the British Tornado that was shot down by a Patriot missile. He said, “I’ve seen enough violence for one day…. I’m going to bed.”
Command is sending a handful of individuals to a Forward Operating Location (FOL). The area is not fully secured; we will have to be armed with M-16s and ***** rounds of ammo at all times.
All of these things are hitting close to home. The POWs, the accidents, the continual threat from the Iraqis. War is hell.
Today it rained. It poured. The sky is still dark. It reminded me of home, of those summer days in Michigan when the storms roll in.
Pray for those not as fortunate as me. Pray for all of us, and for a speedy conclusion to this nightmare.
After reading such an e-mail, my wife Louise feels helpless. Her instincts as a mother kick in — she wants to “be there” to comfort her son. What really concerned her was the middle paragraph about Command sending selected individuals to a forward base. Knowing Ian, we were pretty sure he had volunteered to go. Louise immediately fired back an e-mail:
Ian, are you going to FOL? Please advise immediately.
Our son, still on the computer, wrote right back. Louise’s heart sank when she read the first line, but then….
hey mom… I volunteered to go to the FOL because they need crew chiefs there to turn jets. but, because I’m not that experienced, i just found out they wont allow me to go. most of the guys think that is b.s. but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
dont worry mom…. i’m not going anywhere…. they wont allow me.
i got the first box…. frank you berry mush [code in our family for "thanks," after the children's story Dr. DeSoto]. i'm already halfway thru the reese's. there's just no chocolate here! it looks like i may need some plain bar soap in the next box.... i'm running out.
hey — i have a jet to launch.
i'm fine…. i love you....
— Gleaves Whitney is editing a book of wartime speeches by American presidents, to be published later this year by Rowman & Littlefield. This is the fourth in a series of reports about his 19-year-old son Ian, who is serving in Kuwait with the Michigan Air National Guard.