Editor's note: The Columbia County News-Times continues its four-part series in today's edition with its second piece examining the war in Iraq and how Columbia County is responding more than three years after the war began.
Felicia Dumas says there is no feeling in the world that can compare to the uncertainty of having a child deployed in a war zone.
"What moms go through is unlike anything," said Dumas, whose son, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Russell Holmes, returned from Iraq a few days before Thanksgiving.
"If you have a son or daughter who's away from home in Iraq, waking up every day not knowing if they're going to be OK and you don't have control over it, it is a scary feeling," she said.
It's a feeling that is shared this Mother's Day by the mothers of more than 235,000 servicemen and women deployed overseas as part of the global war on terrorism.
Of that number, 133,000 are stationed in Iraq, 23,000 in Kuwait and nearly 80,000 more elsewhere in the Middle East, according to the Defense Department.
At home for Mother's Day
Though Dumas said she expects her son will be home with her this Mother's Day, next year might be different.
Holmes, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, awaits orders that could soon send him into special forces training for up to a year or a tour in Afghanistan.
"You worry every day," said Linda Parrish, of Martinez, whose son, an Air Force captain and physician assistant, was awarded the Bronze Star for volunteering to train Iraqi medical staff at a military clinic, treating wounded personnel and participating in highly dangerous convoy missions.
Her son, Capt. L. David Carnes, a 1991 Evans High School graduate, recently returned to the United States and is serving an emergency medicine fellowship in Dayton, Ohio.
Communicating on the battlefield
Parrish was more fortunate than many mothers, she says, because she was able to communicate with her son almost daily via e-mail.
"He, of course, didn't tell me everything, but I felt he was safer than a lot of folks," Parrish said. "I worried, naturally, in the back of my mind, but unless there was something on TV near where he was, I felt he was pretty safe."
Dumas and her son were able to communicate much less frequently, with e-mails coming once every week or so, and phone calls whenever it was possible.
Some soldiers find their own way to call home.
Sgt. Robert Cash, the son-in-law of Harlem City Manager Jean Dove and a member of Georgia's 48th Brigade, was able to call home often on a satellite phone he purchased while deployed in Iraq, Dove said.
She said her daughter and Cash spoke almost daily unless he was on a mission protecting convoys.
Moms being moms
Though separated by thousands of miles when their children are deployed, mothers never stop being mothers.
Dumas said her son and the other Blackhawk pilots flew long hours and asked for chewing gum to keep their mouths from going dry and food loaded with protein.
She said she also sent cookies, socks and "anything you can think of to brighten up their room, brighten up their day and let them know they were in our thoughts."
Cash, a military policeman who provided convoy security and protected ordnance teams while they disabled improvised explosive devices, frequently asked for his family to include items for an Iraqi family he grew fond of and items for his men in the care packages it sent, Dove said.
Supporting the war
A CBS News-New York Times poll reported May 1 showed that a slight majority of Americans, 51 percent, believe the United States did the wrong thing by going to war in Iraq.
Dumas said Americans need to rally behind the men and women serving overseas regardless of political views.
"What worries me about the dissension with this choice to go to war with Iraq is that for the men and women who are over there, it is not their choice," she said. "They do not have a choice. It is not a political decision for them. ...We need to support them regardless of what our politics are."
Dove said she also supports the soldiers who are in harm's way, adding that her son-in-law feels his mission is protecting America.
"His view is if they were not over there serving then the terrorists would be over here," Dove said.
Parrish said her son often spoke of his pride in the work he was doing.
"My son never said anything that wasn't positive about the things going on over there," Parrish said of Carnes. Her son kept a journal and still keeps in contact with the Iraqi medical personnel he trained.
"It made me very proud that he was there," she said.
Because her son was deployed in Iraq, Dumas said she often approaches soldiers and makes sure to tell them to not forget about their mothers.
"I always tell them, don't forget to call your mom."
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