Famlies cope, wait while soldiers serve
Theresa Bolin says she's not supposed to look at the news.
"It wigs me out," she said.
Bolin is the mother of U.S. Army Sgt. Brett Dolinski, one of several former Lansing High School students currently serving in Iraq.
Dolinski, 26, is a supply sergeant in Baghdad, and he's been in Iraq since Jan. 24, 2005. He's set to return home, which is Fort Stewart, Ga., on Feb. 1.
Former LHS students serving in Iraq
Several former Lansing High School students are serving their country with the military in Iraq. Here's a look at a few of them.
Even with her son's return date so close, Bolin said it's hard not to worry.
"I think about him, like, all the time," she said.
Bolin said she's new to having a family member deployed, but she's found comfort by joining a Family Readiness Group made up of four mothers and one wife of soldiers in her son's unit. Although the group members are scattered around the country, Bolin said she talked to them "every day, several times a day."
"I don't know how I would have made it without them," she said.
She also talks to her son regularly through an Internet instant messenger.
"He likes to wake me up about 3 o'clock in the morning," she said.
Steven and Patrice Miller can relate to Bolin about not knowing when they will talk to their son Kristian, 22, an Army specialist who's in line to receive a promotion to sergeant soon.
They certainly didn't expect to see him on Christmas because he was just deployed in September. But Kristian surprised his parents and two younger brothers by taking early leave to visit for the holidays. He said the family was full of "pure excitement and joy" at the reunion.
"My mom about died," he said. "She wouldn't let go."
Kristian said he's been in the Army for almost two and a half years and for now is planning to make it his career. He said he keeps in touch with his family by e-mail.
"Of course they're worried," he said, but "they're always really supportive." He said his family had sent him canned and microwaveable food to tide him over; otherwise, he eats MREs, Meals Ready-to-Eat, three times a day.
Krisitan returned to Iraq on Jan. 10 to continue his duties in Samarra. His duties include performing recognizance missions as a senior scout in his platoon. He'll have no more leave time during the next eight to nine months of his deployment, but he said Jan. 9 that he was ready to get back to his mission.
Jeff Rounds, a retired U.S. Army major, had a quieter Christmas than the Millers - his two sons are both deployed. Army Sgt. Brent and Pfc. Adam Rounds are conducting security operations in Baghdad.
Jeff said he kept in touch with his sons primarily through the Internet. He called Adam, 21, a "computer whiz" who frequently e-mails his parents, and Brent, 25, has set up a Web cam.
Though Jeff was in the Army, he said never tried to push his sons to join.
"They just have always been interested in it," he said.
Jeff said Brent talked his younger brother into joining the Army with him. At the time Adam joined, Brent had transferred to an aviation unit in Topeka. However, when it was announced that Adam's unit would be deployed, Brent transferred back so they could go together. They arrived in Iraq in mid-November, Jeff said.
Having his only two sons deployed together brings Jeff mixed emotions.
"There's good and bad sides about it," he said. "The commander assured us they would not be at risk at the same time."
Jeff said he expected his sons to return this fall to Kansas. Once they return, he said Brent would return to the aviation unit in Topeka, and Adam, who already has a private pilot's license, would join him.
Unlike Jeff Rounds, Retired Army Maj. Gary Knight said he never expected his son, Colin Knight, whom he described as "a strong-minded individual," to follow his footsteps into the Army.
"I was a bit surprised," Knight said. "But he's done very well, and I'm quite proud of him."
Colin is a sergeant in the Army and is a rifle team leader at a combat outpost near Samarra. He plans to go to college when his four-year enlistment is over around September, which is when he is due to return from Iraq, his father said.
Gary Knight said his son calls about once a week and also sends e-mail. "He tells me as much as he can" about what he is doing, Gary said.
The dangers of his son's work on not lost on him, but Gary tries to keep it in perspective.
"I'm certainly concerned, but somebody's got to do it," Gary said. "I'm certainly pleased that he stepped up to do it."
Like other parents, Dee Veltum said she tried not to worry, but "it's tough." Her son, 1st Lt. Lee Donald Veltum Jr., 25, is serving at Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq. She said she usually hears from her son about once a week.
Veltum, a second-grade teacher at Lansing Elementary School, said she had relied on friends and understanding members of the military community for comfort while her son is overseas. Her late husband was a retired military signal officer, she said, so she has experience having a family member in the service.
She knew her son wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, Veltum said. After graduating from LHS in 1999, he attended the University of Arkansas on an ROTC scholarship.