Wives emotional over looming military action

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2003

For two Troy women, President Bush's speech offered renewed hope for a speedy end to their separations from their activated husbands.

Kay Penn's husband Larry is currently stationed in Virginia and is performing homeland security-related duties. He's there until October on a two-year deployment with a joint task force.

Penn said Bush's speech was commendable and stressed her support for the American policy of war against Iraq. Still, she said there are elements of uncertainty involved with having a husband on active status during war time.

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&uot;You never know about the future from day to day,&uot; she said. &uot;It's not set in stone.&uot;

National secrecy pervades their conversations about what he's doing so far from home.

&uot;He can't really go in depth too much with me,&uot; she said. &uot;They're a joint task force, which is a support group for all the branches of government. If we had another terrorist attack, they'd go in and help with the state and local governments, but more specifically, he's not at liberty to say.&uot;

Penn said she thinks an assault on Iraq is long overdue.

&uot;I worry but I think we should have already gone in. I so wholeheartedly stand behind the president. The country needs to stand united and support our service men and women who are over there.&uot;

She said diplomacy had run its course long ago.

&uot;I wish we had not given Saddam Hussein as much time as we had. That was just more time he had to get ready for the inevitable,&uot; she said.

As for the echoes of anti-war sentiment in the United States and around the world, Penn sees little room for dissent.

&uot;I'm pro-American and pro-our president. We should all stay united.&uot;

Gwen Qualls' husband, Scherr, is a little closer to the action. As a member of the Alabama Army Reserve, Qualls is stationed in Qatar.

&uot;I talk to him every few days. He's in good spirits and he's ready,&uot; she said. &uot;They're all ready.&uot;

Qualls said her husband is involved in a support role and won't be on the direct frontlines of combat.

&uot;His unit is a supply unit and they do supplies when they come in,&uot; she said.

She said Bush's address confirmed her feelings about the state of international affairs, but somehow managed to add to her anxieties.

&uot;I think the president was very firm in what he was going to do. I knew it was coming,&uot; she said. &uot;I just knew it and felt like he was going to take care of business, but now I'm more worried than before.&uot;

Contact between the couple may diminish once U.S. aggression begins.

&uot;He had told me before that, once things started he wouldn't be able to call any more. He might not even get to e-mail,&uot; she said.

However, the communications breakdown may be one of the major changes for Qualls.

&uot;I did ask him today (Monday) how, when the war started, it would affect what he did,&uot; she said. &uot;He said it wouldn't affect them a great deal.&uot;

How does a loving wife deal with stress and worries about a loved one in potential jeopardy in a desert across the globe?

&uot;You'd be amazed at the number of shrubs I can plant when I'm worried,&uot; she said. &uot;I play with my grandchildren. They can take your mind off of anything.&uot;