A Small Town Comes to Terms With Scud-Attack Losses
ONE YEAR AFTER DESERT STORM
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the one-year anniversary of the attack. In the meantime, someone has fashioned a makeshift memorial of two concrete blocks and five small American flags. Wipe away the winter condensation from the glass-framed plaque and you can read the names of the 13 who were killed: Sergeants Boxler and Alan Craver, specialists Steven Atherton, John Boliver, Joseph Bongiorni III, Beverly Clark, Frank Keough, Christine Mayes, Anthony Madison, Stephen Siko, Thomas Stone, Frank Walls, and Richard Wolverton. A brown mold h as started to eat into both sides of the white paper list.Skip to next paragraph
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Inside the reserve center sits Dave Campbell. "I don't look at myself as a hero," he says, even though he is often treated as one. "For me to be in a parade, it's like: Why?" He has been in four parades since his return.
For a man who wasn't expected to live, Campbell looks extraordinarily fit. He is wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes. His cropped blond hair makes him look almost boyish. A long-sleeved green shirt hides his injured left arm. It takes awhile to realize that Campbell can't do much with his left hand.
Is he bitter about the injury?
"I'm too lucky to be bitter," he says. "When I was conscious, I had a lot of time to lie there and stare at the ceiling and do a lot of thinking.... It gives you a little different perspective."
The response from the community was overwhelming. "You are an everyday Joe, no one special. [But] you would not believe that there would be that many people there ready to help." The Campbells' church, Hamilton Presbyterian, alone raised more than $10,000. Other gave directly. During Campbell's hospitalization, a local auto shop put new tires on his car for free.
The biggest donation, though, came from a wealthy Texas businessman who heard about Campbell's situation. Army regulations allowed only two family members to fly to Saudi Arabia; the businessman bought tickets so that Campbell's wife, two daughters, and sister-in-law could see him. He also paid for medical equipment to be shipped over to Campbell's hospital.
Before the attack "I thought I would accomplish my goals if I could go through life without hurting anybody," Campbell says. "But he made me realize ... if I ever get the chance, I could help somebody else as he helped me."
It has slipped past noon in the living room of the Bennett home where, for several days after the Scud attack, neighbors and friends and a support group gathered to offer condolences and answer the flood of phone calls that were coming in. Vicki Bennett quit her nursing job last month - in part because she wanted to spend weekends with her family, in part, she says, because it was hard to feel compassion for patients' problems after her own experience. She now works for the Red Cross.
Elaine Boxler too finds it harder to feel compassion since her husband's death. When a neighbor's daughter died recently, she didn't react in the old way. "I should have been devastated," she says.
Bennett's feelings emerge more slowly. He doesn't dream about the incident, but "there's not a day that goes past that I don't think about it. I guess the hardest part is being alone with your thoughts. It's scary sometimes.... Too many things put us in that spot at that time, which lets you know how much control you really have. My church attendance isn't the same. [But] I am more convinced about divine existence."
"The hard part was there was no pattern to the deaths. It wasn't a whole section here. It was one here, one there.... It's hard to justify a lot of the deaths. The ages ranged from the early 20s to John [Boxler], being 44. I had a hard time with that at first. Why was I spared?"
"Someone has something for me to do."