HINESVILLE, Ga. March 20 —
When Monicka Bachellor's 7-year-old daughter asked over breakfast
Thursday if her father was at war, Bachellor put on a brave face and
said she wasn't sure.
Bachellor was still telling herself the same thing. Perhaps, she
hoped, the first U.S. missile strikes on Iraq had killed Saddam
Hussein. Maybe her husband, an artillery soldier with the Army's 3rd
Infantry Division poised on the Iraqi border, wouldn't have to fight
But as Bachellor, sitting in her modest brick home with plastic
Easter eggs hung from a tree out front, watched reports later
Thursday that her husband's division had begun shelling Iraq with
artillery, her brave face shed a few anxious tears.
"They're saying our guys are shooting," said Bachellor, whose
husband is Sgt. Michael Bachellor of the 1st Battalion, 141st Field
Artillery Battery. "I'm trying to stay strong. It's just a scary
time. I'm just hoping for his safety."
Soldiers' families in this southeast Georgia military town
abutting Fort Stewart, the largest Army post east of the Mississippi
River, watched and worried as their hometown troops from the 3rd
Infantry entered the fighting.
About 20,000 soldiers of the 3rd Infantry from Fort Stewart and
Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga., are leading the ground invasion of
Iraq. Armed with 200 tanks and 260 Bradley fighting vehicles, the
3rd Infantry specializes in desert warfare. Many of its senior
soldiers played a key role in crushing Saddam's invasion of Kuwait
during the first Gulf War.
News that the division's artillery batteries had begun firing on
southern Iraq ended a long period of waiting for military families
in Hinesville, where the first troops deployed in September.
Fast-food marquees still read "God Bless Our Troops" and yellow
ribbons have hung from utility poles so long they have faded almost
Bachellor has been getting moral support from her older brother,
Mike Hicks, a Vietnam veteran from Mansfield, Ohio. He arrived in
town three weeks ago to help with her two small children Sky, 7, and
Kevin, 3 and his military background has been a source of
"He's in a pretty safe area, really," Hicks told Bachellor,
saying her husband's battery would be in the rear of the infantry
"No war's a good war. None of them are 100 percent safe. But he's
in a very survivable outfit."
Just before the bombing started, Army wife Tina Morales also was
comforted by words from someone with military experience her
husband, Spc. Joseph Morales, whose latest letter arrived this
"He told me he knows his job very well and he's very confident in
himself and what he can do," Morales, whose husband is also in the
3rd Infantry's 141st Field Artillery, said as she packed for a trip
to California to visit her mother-in-law. "That makes me feel a
whole lot better."
Another wife from their unit, Shauna King, had avoided watching
the news for two months during the troop build-up in Kuwait.
Now, "I can hardly turn it off," she said Thursday.
King tried to busy herself with other things cleaning house and
playing with her 6-month-old daughter, Kali, who rolled herself over
for the first time Thursday.
But King, wife of artillery Spc. Justin King, had expected a
longer wait before 3rd Infantry troops took action on the ground.
Hearing it so soon, she said, was a mixed blessing.
"Before it was just air strikes. Now it could be our guys
fighting right this minute," she said. "You're glad it's going
quick, but you just want it over now."
Not only spouses of soldiers watched the war erupt. Shoppers at
the Hinesville Wal-Mart paused with their shopping carts to watch
updates on televisions throughout the store.
And Katherine Blair, who until recently made her living giving $5
buzz-cuts to local soldiers, kept the radio turned up in the taxi
cab she started driving last week to make ends meet.
"Everybody's more quiet now than they were a few days ago.
They're just walking around, `What are we going to do? What's going
to happen?' like after a tornado," Blair said.
She picked up fares Thursday wearing a black infantry T-shirt
with the slogan "Mess with the Best, Die like the Rest." But she
also found herself tearing up when the radio played Ray Charles'
version of "America the Beautiful."
"Hey, these are tears of pride," Blair said. "It's fear, pride,
humbleness it covers everything. That's the way I think everybody
|Monicka Bachellor and her
3-year-old son Kevin share a happy moment at her home in
Hinesville, Ga., Thursday March 20, 2003 after opening a
letter from her husband who is fighting in Iraq with the U.S.
Army's Third Infantry Division Artillery. Bachellor said she
gets about one letter every three weeks from the Middle East.
(AP Photo/Stephen Morton)|
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