For some, the war is being fought close to the heart
The fifth anniversary of the Iraq war passed with little notice in Carson City. We made our coffee, drove to work, greeted our colleagues, checked our e-mail, ate our lunches, thought a little about our weekend plans, went home and life was good and predictable. It’s a strange war in that it’s easy to not think about it at all.
Not for everyone, though.
Not for the young men and women who grew up here and are now fighting in the Middle East. And not for their families, either. There’s no way to know how many from Northern Nevada are fighting over there now.
But I do know that one of them is 21-year-old Jared Franco.
Jared, an Army communications specialist, is 7,348 miles away from Carson City right now, from his wife Kristi and two infant daughters, from his mother, Kathi Garcia-Franco. He’s at Camp Victory in Baghdad, on a 15-month tour.
When he last saw his youngest daughter, Abigail, she was just 2 weeks old (now she’s 6 months old, and her older sister, Kiele, is 17 months old).
That last sentence is not completely accurate … not in the Internet age. They’ve been able to visit occasionally via Web cam, but they haven’t yet invented a way for a soldier to hug his wife and children over the Web.
Kristi, whom he met at Carson High, and their two daughters have moved in with Kathi while he’s deployed. That took some initial adjustment, his mother admits, namely getting used to the lack of peace and quiet that mothers get to experience when their children leave home.
“It’s an adjustment having a household of crying babies,” she said. But it was worth it.
“I feel very blessed,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
The family sends care packages every month … Girl Scout cookies, movies, phone cards, back scratchers (a big hit with the platoon). Support comes from outside the house, too. Kathi’s co-workers at the Gaming Control Board have contributed generously to care packages to the platoon.
And so have three Carson City Starbucks, on Retail Drive, College Parkway and North Carson Street. They donated equipment that makes iced coffees, as well as more than 50 pounds of coffee and a grinder.
Imagine how good an iced Starbucks coffee must taste in smoky Baghdad, Iraq, where, Jared told his mother, it smells like burning camel dung (which serves as fuel for cooking and heating fires).
Jared emphatically told Kathi to pass on the platoon’s many thanks to Starbucks, and the stores can soon expect a photo of his platoon.
Jared joined the military at 18, and it’s helped him mature, his mother says. He’s more structured, more disciplined and he might well decide to make the military his career.
“He believes in what he’s doing,” Kathi said. Her son believes they should not pull out now and let Iraq deteriorate into turmoil. “They’re there to complete a mission … they’re very passionate about what they’re doing.”
That’s a soldier’s view, from a man bound to follow the decisions of his commander in chief, and Kathi knows many Americans don’t agree.
“I really understand people not agreeing with the war,” Kathi said. She herself has questions.
But not when it comes to doing all they can to help him and his platoon know they’ve got people back home thinking about them.
“Everybody has their opinion about the war, but we’re in a war and we just pray that they come home safe,” she said.
Jared’s lucky to have supportive family members, but he’s told his mother some soldiers have no contact with people back home.
“If people would just take a little bit of time and think of them … these guys need to hear from people,” Kathi said. “I would just hope that people keep all of our soldiers in their hearts and prayers.”
There are likely several other local families sending care packages to their relatives in the war zone. But even if you don’t know anyone there, you can still show your support.
Carson City resident P.J. Degross founded an organization in 2004 called Web of Support for that purpose. She wants Nevada people to adopt Nevada soldiers. So far, they’ve found families to adopt about 1,000 servicemembers. If you’re interested in helping, visit the organization’s Web site, webofsupport.com, or e-mail her at PJdahling@aol.com.
There’s a chance Jared will be back home in April for an 18-day leave, but his family members aren’t letting their hopes get too high. It’s possible they won’t seen him anywhere but via Web cam until December.
7,348 miles away – it seems a very long distance. But Jared is intertwined in everything his family does.
“He’s in my thoughts every minute of every day,” said Kathi.
“We get mad getting stuck in traffic … he spent 18 hours at one point in a bomb shelter,” she said.
“We don’t have a clue.”
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at email@example.com.