Writing home

Separation makes the heart grow fonder ... and the war go slower. When servicemen and women get called to duty, they leave behind spouses with kids and the unfinished business of daily life. Once apart, the deployed feel homesick and their loved ones struggle to hold down the home front.

On base, airmen and other servicemen and women are allowed four 30-minute phone calls (known as "morale calls" a week (two for free). They also sign up for e-mail sessions, also limited to 30 minutes. Since letters and packages take weeks to arrive, people rely most on e-mail to stay connected.

Here are excerpts from some e-mails that some of the troops shared with me.

Heather, whose husband Steven is an airman, writes of a birthday party for their young daughter.

Well, Sissy's party went fine. My dad got paged, so they had to eat cake and run. But we had dinner and presents first.

Mikayla loves her dress and wants to wear it tomorrow. She started crying tonight. She was telling me how much she misses you and wanted your phone number again. I held her and told her it was OK to cry and that I missed you, too. She said she will miss you forever if you don't come home. I told her you would be home someday. She really misses you.

Jonny got mad at Grandma for sitting in your chair. He said "NO, daddy's chair!!!"

I took lots of pictures for you. I will send you one at a time like you said.

[The dog] has been a handful lately. I don't know what her deal is. She is barking her stupid head off tonight, too. And there is nothing to bark at. She doesn't listen to me. Just like the kids. I had to ground Haleigh from Barbies. She was told to clean up and said it was [done]. Then bedtime came and it wasn't.

My new pillow helped. I think the only real fix is having you back in bed with me. That will be my best night of sleep. I miss being held and getting hugged. I couldn't imagine being single. It is so lonely and cold. I am going to send the pics separate from this e-mail. I am going to get ready for bed now! I love you very much honey. Miss you lots!

Love always...

Heather

Steven writes back with a mix of love and longing, as well as advice on how to handle the mechanic.

I hope the new babysitter that you hired works out. Does she have a playpen to keep the dog away from her baby?

As far as the car goes, take it back to them and tell them they did not fix the problem, try again. If that doesn't work make them feel guilty, tell them your husband is fighting in the war and you don't have time to play games with them.

I am glad that you don't feel like you miss being single, because I sure don't. I feel that our love grows with each day we face together. I miss all aspects of being with you, even the annoying ones. Wait ... I can't think of one annoying thing. Even though there are sure to be many annoying things about me.

Here is an idea for Jonny. Print out a picture of me from off the computer, and tack it up next to his bed. If it will make it better put one next to all of their beds and put one on my kitchen chair. Just a thought.

You know what I have been doing with your letters you type? I have been printing them out and when I get lonely for you I read them, it helps big time. There is nothing new to report from here, same thing day-in day-out.

You said that I need not worry about you, I do not think that is possible. Anyway, I love you and miss you with every part of me. YOU ARE THE ONE FOR ME ... and my love for you is as strong, if not stronger, than ever before.

I love you and miss you all very much

Steven

P.S. I hope this was long enough to keep you satisfied for at least a little bit.

Thomas, an Army officer, and his wife, Susan, moved to the Southwest from the East Coast. The reassignment was difficult for Susan because she had to give up an executive-level job and move to a region with few prospects.

Hola,

Geraldo gave away tactical info on the TV. The Army asked that he be removed but then I saw him reporting again later in the morning so don't know for sure. I don't think he did anything on purpose.

I enjoyed myself last night. It was fun. We were sitting around talking about scorpions, and when they start to come out, etc. When I got home, there was a big one on the kitchen floor!!!!! Alive, and of course Bud [the cat] was trying to eat it. Then this morning there was another BIG one by the trashcan. Alive!!!! I killed them both by crushing them to death.

I turned my application in for the job on post. She called me again to make sure I really wanted it before she forwarded my stuff to their headquarters. It is for about $12 an hour, temporary, and the hours are 7:30 - 4:30. That means I would have to leave the house around 6:45 or so. I just don't know if I want to do that for such little pay. What do you think?

All for now. Love you mucho. Stay where you are if it is optional.

Susan

Thomas tries to offer his advice on the job from halfway around the world.

I'm glad you had a good time. You usually do. So the scorpions are out big time. Big ones. You be careful, honey. Why didn't it sting Bud? I would think it would for sure. How did you crush them?

Reference the job. To me it seems humiliating to only get $12 an hour. What specifically would you be doing? My guess is you will be working for people who don't have your credentials or experience. I probably will end up working for something like that if I retire. I hope not, but I am just being realistic.

I am not pressuring you at all. You must go with your judgment and I will support you 100%, you know that. Personally, unless it was something I really thought I would enjoy doing, and would enjoy the people, and wasn't too demanding, and perhaps would give me a foot in the door to move up, I wouldn't do it. Your quality of life is more important than $12 an hour.

I love you.

Thomas

Earl, an airman, and his wife Nicole spoke recently on the phone. Earl notes that his wife is a stickler for laundry and would be disappointed in the state of his uniform.

Hi Honey,

It's always nice to hear your voice. I feel much more calm and less worried when I do. Well, today has been a variety. It has snowed while the sun was out, hailed, and thundered, rained and been warm. The kids think that it's Xmas when it snows.

We have not done anything today. I have no motivation today. I feel like I could just go to sleep right now, but the kids won't go this early.

How was your day off? I hope that you got your laundry done and done right???

Well, I will try to e-mail before bed, I love you so much and I am sorry for being [moody] when you called, I was just having a moment. I miss you also and so do the girls.

Nicole xoxoxoxo

P.S. They showed some of your planes on TV tonight, but didn't say too much about them. Are you still busy launching them or has it slowed down?

Hello Dear,

It was great to hear you talk to me on the phone. You sounded a little upset with the days' happenings, but I know how that is. I get those days myself.

We are still very busy. Hopefully, not much longer with this war. How are the girls this morning? I hope Emily is feeling better. Does she still like her red, white, and blue cast? I know she does. I hope I get to see it one day soon.

It is snowing back home, and here, it is getting very hot!! Looks like I am going to get a tan before I get home.

I hope you have a great day. I sure do miss you all so much. It is Friday and I am going to try to go to mass today. I have been doing very well with my Lenten observances.

Do not worry honey I will be home mowing the lawn before you know it is summer. Love you always and forever.

Earl

Steve, a Marine, received this e-mail from his wife a few minutes after April 1. He and Deborah have only been married for four-and-a-half months. Steve has been in Kuwait for over two months.

Speaking of babies, I felt really bad about telling you this while you're out there, but it isn't like you're home or even call me, so I guess this is the best way I can get it to you. Well, here it goes. Hunnybear, I am 2 months pregnant. I'm sorry I don't know what to say other than it didn't mean anything and we will talk about this more when you get home. I love you and I'm sorry this happened.

Forever your loving wife

Deborah

Steve was shocked by that e-mail. Seventeen hours later, Steve received a second e-mail. Turns out Deborah was joking. Earlier, Steve had played an April Fool's Day trick on her by sending an e-mail that made it sound as if he was heading to the frontline.

I was just kidding about the pregnancy thing ... I wanted to scare you just as much as you scared me. That was NOT a cute joke to play on me. I was almost in tears when I read it (before I scrolled down) and my heart had stopped.

Well baby ... I just want to let you know I love you and I would never do anything to hurt you especially while you're away. Like I said, I love you with all my heart.

Well, I guess I should go. The fact that I don't have an e-mail from you worries me a bit but I'm sure you're fine and didn't do anything stupid because you thought your wife was 2 months prego. :) Did I get ya at all? I hope so.

But just believe me when I say it was a joke. I love you and miss you. Can't wait to see you home.

Forever your loving (unpregnant) wife ;)

P.S. Please write me back so I know you're ok!

Deborah

Editor's note: csmonitor.com reporter Ben Arnoldy is on assignment in Kuwait as part of the Pentagon's program "embedding" journalists with troops involved in the invasion of Iraq. His reporting is collected in the web special project Assignment: Kuwait (http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/kuwait/).

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