At home, word from spouse beats news
August 3, 2003
Jennifer Rossin always feels better after the calls.
Her husband, Spc. John Rossin, 501st Military Police Company, was deployed to Iraq on May 1 from 1st Armored Division headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, she said.
Lately, husband and wife have been able to talk about once a week.
It’s a relief, Jennifer Rossin said, just to know he’s alive: “You see on the news that people are dying every day. It helps to know he’s not one of them.” In between, she worries “until the next time he calls.”
Against a backdrop of media reports about escalating attacks that seem to be “ongoing, nonstop” as Jennifer Rossin puts it, being an Information Age military spouse brings a knot of colliding, sometimes contradictory, information and emotions.
“As much as it worries me, I still watch [the news],” Jennifer Rossin said, adding that CNN is “one of the few channels we get” at her Wiesbaden housing unit.
But she and others talk about disconnects between media reports and what they’re hearing directly from their soldiers in Iraq. Soldiers, they say, talk or write about being bored, homesick, exhilarated by the adventure or exhausted by the heat. But rarely do they directly mention attacks.
Many spouses point out that 145,000 American soldiers are spread out over an area the size of California. In context, attacks — while increasing — are relatively limited, they say.
Most of the time, John Rossin talks about every soldier’s nemesis — boredom at his remote base, said Jennifer Rossin, herself a former 27 Tango, or Patriot missile operator and mechanic.
Asked whether she believes the media or her husband on the ground, she answers without pausing: “I believe what my husband tells me.”
Many spouses concede they consciously try to keep conversation light for those precious phone calls. When Shykia Tyson of Baumholder talks to her husband, Pfc. Shamir Tyson, or they exchange letters, “we joke around a lot. You don’t talk about war or peacekeeping.”
“Even in letters, I don’t bring it up that much. I just say, ‘Be safe!’” Still, reality intrudes.
Jennifer Rossin said her husband told her that with more troops peacekeeping in Iraq than planned — or provisioned — for, soldiers in his unit are limited to two liters of bottled water and two Meals, Ready to Eat each day. So she’s sending him supplemental food and water.
Other spouses told Stars and Stripes that soldiers have unlimited access to “water buffalos,” tankers filled with water that’s potable, but has an unappealing flavor due to high mineral and chlorine content.
Shamir Tyson, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, was supposed to be helping direct artillery fire, Shykia Tyson said. But once at the Baghdad airport, commanders turned him into an infantry soldier and, for a few days anyway, he was leading weapons raids — “the guy kicking in the door,” she said.
If it worries her, it doesn’t show. On one recent afternoon, Tyson was cheerful and talkative as she and fellow 4-27 spouse Monica Ingram and Ingram’s 1-year-old daughter, Jmani, sat in the shade of an outdoor cafe. As time goes on, Ingram said, she’s adapting. But, she said, life on the home front is still difficult without Cpl. James Ingram: “I was just so used to being with my husband. Now, we have to do everything alone.
“I can’t watch the news. It scares me.”
If there is a common denominator, it’s a growing reluctance to turn on the tube.
Cathy Humphries said she watches the news less and less.
“I’m not glued to the TV like during the first days of the war,” she said. Her husband, 1st Sgt. Jeffery Humphries, with the 1st AD’s Baumholder-based 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, is in Iraq.
It’s his first deployment of his 20-year career, Cathy Humphries said, “but I know how to be a soldier’s wife. You do what you need to do.”
She stays in touch via e-mail and calls. She gets information via Family Readiness Group meetings. She relies on her chaplain and her personal network.
What she refuses to do is worry.
“It’s not good for [your] health,” Humphries said with a serene smile.
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — In July, outgoing Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Gen. Tommy Franks said U.S. troops in Iraq face 10 to 25 attacks each day.
Since combat operations were officially declared over May 1, at least 56 American soldiers have died in combat, and at least 45 in accidents. At least eight 1st Armored Division soldiers have died since combat operations ceased, according to information on the Department of Defense Web site.
The 1st AD dead [killed in combat] include:
• Spc. William J. Maher III, 35, of Yardley, Pa., was killed July 28 when guerrillas dropped an explosive device into his Humvee from a Baghdad, Iraq, overpass. He was assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, at Ray Barracks in Friedberg, Germany.• 1st Sgt. David Parsons, 30, killed by snipers July 6 in Baghdad. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, at Ray Barracks in Friedberg.Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott, 20, of Shakopee, Minn., died July 3. Herrgott, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment at Ray Barracks in Friedberg, died from a gunshot wound while on patrol in Baghdad.• Spc. Orenthial J. Smith, 21, of Allendale, S.C., killed on June 22 in Baghdad when his convoy was ambushed. Smith was assigned to Company A, 123rd Main Support Battalion, Dexheim, Germany.• Pvt. Robert L. Frantz, 19, of San Antonio, died June 17 in a Baghdad grenade attack. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment at Ray Barracks in Friedberg.• Pvt. Shawn D. Pahnke, 25, Shelbyville, Ind., was killed June 16 by a sniper as he patrolled in Baghdad. Pahnke was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, Ray Barracks in Friedberg.• Pvt. Jason L. Deibler, 20, of Coeburn, Va., was killed May 4. Deibler was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment at Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany.
— Source: Department of Defense Web site