Family on the front lines

May 22, 2003, midnight | By Elena Chung | 17 years, 8 months ago

Although the war in Iraq has come to an official end, most soldiers have yet to come home, including the relatives of many students.

Seventeen percent of Blazers still await their relatives' return, according to an informal Silver Chips poll of 100 students on May 6 and 8.

I have some notion of the anxiety that they are experiencing, because my brother, Allen, a 22-year-old lance corporal in the U.S. Marines Corps, is still in Iraq.

Junior Crystal Santos, whose brother is an Army medic stationed in Iraq, shares my fears. The telephone conversations with her brother only heighten her concerns. "He talked like he was saying goodbye, like he was going to die," she says.

The reality did not truly hit home until I heard the first reported casualties. Whenever the news stations flashed the number of American deaths, I prayed that the phone would not ring bearing bad news about my brother.

Senior Eno Aquaowo, who has a brother currently stationed with the Army in Iraq, remembers feeling powerless when she first heard about the suicide bombings which could strike her brother. "I felt helpless. You think about the family, and we wouldn't know how to react if he was injured or died in combat," she says.

Hope to cope

For the past weeks—especially during the 26 days of combat—my focus has not been on my school studies but on the war. As the war continued, I would watch the news and search the Internet for any bit of information about my brother's ever-changing location. My mind only rested when my family finally started to receive weekly mail from Allen with satisfactory news.

Other Blazers, like Santos, refused to watch or listen to the news. Santos couldn't bear to think about the sight and sounds of war with her brother on the frontlines. "I would change the channel. They showed live pictures of the [American] prisoners of war," she explains. "I did not want to see those."

Aquaowo deals with her stress by trying to keep her mind off her apprehensions. "I don't think my brother would want me to worry," she says. "I'm still worried, but it isn't good to live in fear."

There are many ways to deal with war-related stress depending on the individual, says Sharon Friedman, Montgomery County executive director of the Mental Health Association. "Some will try and regain control by getting back into their regular routine, while others will be thinking about the situation constantly," she explains. "These reactions are very typical responses to crisis situations because everybody experiences stress differently."

Homeward bound

As the conflict in Iraq comes to an end, I know that most troops will be returning soon. However, some troops involved in peacekeeping operations will not be home for many months.

Aquaowo eagerly awaits her brother's homecoming after operations are finished in Iraq. "I'm glad my brother's coming home soon, but he is supposed to come to my graduation," she says. "He wrote about feeling bad about missing my graduation."

Santos expects some awkwardness in his brother's return. "You want to talk about the war or about politics, but when you read the letters he writes, he just seems to want to forget," she explains.

As for me, I don't know what to expect. I predict there will be some excitement in Allen's return, but I am also hesitant to celebrate with the knowledge that over one hundred families grieve for lost relatives and that for many more with loved ones still overseas, the war is not yet over.

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Elena Chung. After several failed attempts to start a school newspaper in elementary school, Elena Chung, a senior, has finally fulfilled a lifelong goal to write for a paper. When she's not hunting down sources or finishing loads of work, she enjoys taking photos, cooking, reading, watching … More »

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