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Saying goodbye the hardest thing

Saying goodbye is never easy.

And when a soldier says goodbye to his wife and family and marches off to war, that's probably the hardest goodbye of all.

At least, that's what Bonnie Brown thought when her husband, Ed, left for Saudi Arabia with the 900th Maintenance Company of the Alabama National Guard 12 years ago Monday.

&uot;I was afraid for him and I was scared for me and our three children,&uot; Bonnie said. &uot;Ed had always been the head of the household. I took care of the kids and he took care of me.&uot;

Saying goodbye that day was one of the hardest things Bonnie Brown had ever had to do - until now.

In a couple of weeks, she will be saying goodbye to another soldier. This time it's her son.

PFC John Brown is a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Division and is currently at Fort Campbell, Ken. waiting to be deployed to the Middle East.

&uot;John's unit is air defense artillery,&uot; Bonnie said. &uot;What he does is

rappel out of helicopters.&uot;

Based on the history of the 101st Airborne, Ed Brown said John will &uot;probably be in the thick of things if we go to war.&uot;

That's enough to make any parent weak

in the knees.

&uot;It's very different when it's your son,&uot; Bonnie said. &uot;He is a part of you. When Ed left for Saudi Arabia, that was so hard. I can remember

when the bus pulled away it was like a part of me was dying. When I got home and he wasn't here, honestly, it was like someone had died. This time, it will be a part of me that's leaving. I can't imagine how hard it will be.&uot;

Ed said it's very difficult to know that a son will possibly be placed in harm's way.

&uot;But, when you join any branch of the military, you know there is this possibility," Ed said. &uot;I wish that I could go in his place, but this is what John wants to do.&uot;

Bonnie said her son was in the Alabama National Guard and decided he wanted to go active duty.

&uot;That was what he wanted to do and we encouraged him,&uot; she said. &uot;He joined the Army and wanted to be a member of the air assault unit,&uot; she said. &uot;He worked very hard to get his wings and we are so proud of him. But, I also feel a little guilty now knowing that the United States will probably go to war

and he will be involved

and that we encouraged him.&uot;

However, Bonnie and Ed Brown know that it's not encouragement that makes a soldier; it's courage. And, their son has plenty of that.

&uot;He told us if something should happen to him that he wants us to remember that this is what he wants to do and that he wants us to be proud of him,&uot; Bonnie said. &uot;We are very proud of him. But, we do fear for him and all of the soldiers who will be fighting. We don't know what they will be facing. There's the possibility of chemical and biological weapons. We just don't know.&uot;

It would be understandable for a couple whose 21-year-old son will probably be &uot;in the thick of things,&uot; to be against war with Iraq, but the Browns are not.

&uot;During Desert Storm, the American people were behind us 100 percent,&uot; Ed said. &uot;Some people said we should have gone on into Iraq then, but the mission of the multi-national force was to liberate Kuwait and that was done. Now, we have another mission and it, too, must be done.&uot;

And, those who are called upon to fulfill this mission will be the next line of heroes — and victims of war.

&uot;Our prayers will be with all of the soldiers and their families,&uot; the Browns said. &uot;And we pray that everybody makes it back — and as quickly as possible.&uot;

The Browns were at Fort Campbell this past weekend for a visit with John. They will be there when

the 101st Airborne is deployed within the next two weeks.

Saying goodbye then will be the hardest thing the Browns have ever had to do.