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Gen X'er reflects on war

By By BILL CRIST – Publisher
I was a senior in college the last time war broke out in Iraq. I had a few friends who were in the ROTC, and as the military buildup took place over the fall of 1990, they worried about what they'd be called on to do upon graduation. We had just returned to school for our final semester when the troops rolled and Operation Desert Storm got underway.
Four days later, the fighting was over and at least in my case, things went back to normal, as much as that can be said of a college student's final semester before graduation.
This time is different, though. For me, there was newspaper coverage to plan and events to photograph and report on. I listened to the news of our county's military buildup and final ultimatum with concern for our troops and their families. But I also had to consider how we'd gather information about Brewton-area natives that are serving, both at home and abroad.
While it sounded far-fetched at first, we started making plans for a special breaking news edition that would publish the day following the initial attack, even if it was not on a normal publishing day for us.
One aspect of the coverage I had not anticipated, though, was how the images of the soldiers and their families saying goodbye to each other would affect me personally. I'd seen the pictures from past wars, the children running up to embrace a parent for example, and while I certainly sympathized for those family members, I feel a much closer connection to those families this time around.
Reading Carolyn Geck's comments about her young grandson waving goodbye to his mother during the last Gulf war, "I still have the mental image of that little hand waving goodbye as his mother left," leaves a lump in my throat. I can almost feel Burley Townson Srs.' concern as his son hugs his daughter in a picture we published Thursday.
Perhaps it's because I've grown a little more sensitive over the years, but more likely, it's because I too have a child at home now, and I know how difficult it is just to drop her off at daycare in the morning. Putting the strain of the mission ahead aside, I cannot imagine the emotional toll our servicemen and women pay when they get the orders to move out.
Friday night I learned my good friend and running partner Bill Thallemer had been activated. Bill's in the Coast Guard Reserve and had faced activation immediately after Sept. 11, but that call never came. Now he's been ordered to report to New Orleans and could be called to active duty for up for 12 months. I know he and his wife are feeling the stress associated with such a call much more than I am, but once again, the reality of this war hit home.
The war against terror hit home in Brewton on Sept 11, 2001, when we learned that two people with ties to our area were killed in separate terrorist attacks on our nation. There are many area families with loved ones currently involved in this war, several are probably involved in action in Iraq and Afghanistan as you're reading this. For them, this war is very real and the emotions and concern run very deeply.
Regardless of your position on the war against terrorism, and our nation's leaders' decisions thus far, now is the time to support the young men and women who are carrying out their orders.
Our volunteer forces are fighting to protect our nation from future attacks and to free a nation that has suffered under a dictator's rule for decades. This community's show of support through yellow ribbons and American flags is one sign of how much we understand the sacrifices that are being made by those in the military.
God Bless and God speed Bill, and also each of the other men and women who are serving this nation so proudly. Whether they have family in Brewton or come from far away, our community, our nation, is proud of you and what you will accomplish. Thank you for your sacrifices and know that they are not going unnoticed by those of us at home.
be contacted via email at bill.crist@brewtonstandard.com