A Scottsdale grandpa. A school nurse in Mesa. A young Gilbert mom with three daughters at home. A family in Tempe.
To them this talk of war is not some abstraction. To them, the far-off, high-and-mighty doings of presidents and prime ministers, of diplomats and generals, have life-and-death immediacy, flesh-and-blood reality.
Their loved ones are over there, or soon to be. And already it is not easy. They talk about the dull anguish of separation. They address the accumulating dread of combat.
They talk about the big, almost unuttered what if, the question every family ever caught in the crucible of war has had to face: What if he never comes back?
Beginning today, the Tribune will profile people whose sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers have answered the call to arms. Today's stories appear on Pages A12 and A13. Occasional profiles will continue during the Iraq crisis.
Today you will meet the Paap family of Mesa, whose son is a Marine lieutenant; Paul DeMoss of Scottsdale, awaiting word on his Marine Corps grandson; the Farber family of Gilbert, whose husband and father faces his second round of fighting in the Persian Gulf; and the DeLunas of Tempe, whose son may be in the Iraq invasion force.
They are facing matters with resolve and apprehension and stark realism, hoping war does not come but steeling themselves for when it does. Steeling themselves for that dark, barely spoken what if.
Far from the sands of Kuwait and Iraq, a Scottsdale grandpa awaits word from a man who shocked his family by joining the Marines.
Paul DeMoss, 71, is a 43-year Scottsdale resident, retired from his maintenance job at a major resort. He recalls receiving one of the most surprising phone calls not long after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“Grandpa Paul, guess what I did?” said Lee Reed from his home in Ohio. “I joined the Marines!”
When DeMoss asked why, Reed said, “I had to, after 9/11.”
Reed 19, is newly promoted to lance corporal and is stationed in Kuwait after having received extensive training in chemical and biological warfare. His mother, Deborah Reed, graduated from Coronado High School in Scottsdale and has lived in DeMoss’ native Ohio since her marriage about 20 years ago.
DeMoss describes his grandson as “quiet, a real good student. When he joined the Marine Corps that surprised the heck out of me.” Before enlisting for a four-year hitch, he had been planning a medical career.
DeMoss knows the rigors of combat, having spent 13 months in Korea in 1950 and 1951 with the Army’s 2nd Division. He recalled Gen. Douglas MacArthur saying he planned to start sending troops home by Christmas, but a massive Chinese invasion that fall thwarted an Allied victory and led to a stalemate. Half a century later, DeMoss said, “My division is still in Korea.”
That leads him to wonder about America's promise that its postwar occupation of Iraq would only be temporary. And he frets about the safety of Lee Reed, one of his eight grandchildren.
“Sure I’m worried,” he said. “But I back what we’re doing over there. We should have done it sooner.”
Lee Reed feels the same way, DeMoss said. “He told me, ‘Grandpa Paul, I know what I’m doing. We have to do something sooner or later.’ ”
DeMoss said he has not heard from Lee Reed since his deployment, but Lee will be hearing from his grandfather and other residents of the Arizona Retirement Home of Scottsdale.
They’re packing a box full of goodies to be shipped to Kuwait.
When Marcus DeLuna graduated from Tempe High School in 1999, he didn't know what he wanted to do. His father sat him down and told him he had three options: Go to college, go to work or join the service.
He wasn't ready to go back to school. He didn't want to work. So he enlisted in the Marines. "The funny thing is, when you go in the service, you go to school and you work," Joe DeLuna said. "So he didn't beat it."
For Marcus DeLuna, 22, life has never been about avoiding work. Homecoming king. Honor roll. Class president. A four-year varsity defensive lineman who helped the Buffaloes win the state championship in 1996.
"He's a pretty all-American guy," his mother, Laurie, said. "I think he's what the Marines are all about."
And now the young Marine corporal works constantly. He drives trucks for a Marine air support wing unit. Between helping deliver the tons of material pouring off ships, building bases for thousands of arriving troops and the aftereffects of constant vaccinations, DeLuna tells his family he's exhausted.
"He said every day they're getting a shot of something," his girlfriend Tomacina Granados, 21, said. The last time DeLuna called his family was in late January, from Kuwait. "He calls his girlfriend more than he calls us," his sister Camea said. What he reports is this: Kuwait is bitterly cold right now. He's living in a tent. He takes a shower once every three or four days. This news is delivered after a two- to three-hour wait in line at phone banks AT&T has set up in the desert.
Granados said he doesn't show his emotions when he calls. When she told him their 4-year-old son Isaiah needs adenoid surgery in March, "he got really quiet and said, 'I wish I was going to be there.' "
A yellow ribbon hangs from the door of the DeLunas’ split-level house on Southern Avenue in Phoenix on the Tempe border.
Obviously Joe and Laurie DeLuna closely watch the news. "It probably won't hit me until the actual war starts," Joe DeLuna said. "Then I'll start worrying."
Ask Laurie DeLuna the same question, and she thinks for a moment before answering. When she answers, there is no glistening in her eyes, no waver in her voice.
"I'm worried about all our service people," she said. "When I asked him about it after 9/11 when he was ready to go to Afghanistan, he said he took (an oath) to be a Marine. If his country asked him to go, that's what he would do."
It is a repeat act for Anna Farber.
Her husband, Stephen, is a lieutenant colonel in the Marine reserves. He’s been gone a month, having left the family’s Gilbert home on Jan. 14 for New Orleans.
There, he is awaiting deployment to the Persian Gulf, where he may be called
upon to fly a UH-1 helicopter gunship over the Iraqi war front.
“We’ve done this before,” Anna Farber said. “We were in Desert Storm.”
In that 1991 war, the family had six days’ notice he was leaving. “I was three months pregnant at the time,” Anna said. By the time Stephen got home, little Jackie was already 6 weeks old.
Jackie will be 12 next month. The other children are Stephanie, 15, and Sierra, 3.
“It broke their hearts” to see their dad leave again, Anna said. “It was very, very difficult.”
To ease the pain of departure, Stephen took each daughter, one by one, to an age-appropriate restaurant. For Sierra, it was Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza.
Anna, 36, said they’ve been a military family since they married 16 years ago. She spent 12 years in the Navy. Stephen, 49, had eight years’ active duty with the Marines. In civilian life, he flies medical helicopters.
“I always tell everybody if I had a rotor on my head I think I’d see him more,” Anna said. “He loves to fly, loves his job, loves the Marine Corps, loves his country.”
His stint in Desert Storm created unpleasant memories, Anna said. “There’s a lot he can’t or doesn’t talk about.”
Especially poignant were the scared Iraqi kids who had been forced into Saddam Hussein’s army and who surrendered the first chance they got. “That kind of touched him,” she said.
He brought home photographs of himself with injured Iraqi POWs who used his flight jacket as a pillow. Other pictures show immense clouds of smoke from oil fields blown up by retreating Iraqis.
Anna is steeling herself for the ultimate, grim possibilities of war.
“God forbid anything were to happen to him,” she said. “But he loves what he does. Steve loves our country and he believes in what we’re doing.
“If anything were to happen, he would die doing what he loved to do.”