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Relatives deployed worldwide

Maureen Reynolds | Monday, March 22, 2004

During times of war, it’s easy to concentrate only on the so-called “hot spots,” the areas of the world where the fighting is occurring and American lives are being lost in seemingly rapid numbers.But there are other places – places American soldiers live and work, away from their families and friends – that must also draw attention.South Korea, for example, is temporarily home to many American military personnel, like sophomore Gretchen Ryan’s older brother Nicholas. 1st. Lt. Nicholas Ryan graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 2002 and then spent time in Alabama attending helicopter flight school before being assigned to South Korea in December. Nicholas Ryan is in charge of distributing supplies to different units, according to his sister, and continues his pilot’s training.When the war broke out in Iraq last year, Gretchen Ryan said she was relieved knowing her brother had not completed his training and could not be shipped out.”I knew he was still in training, and that he would have no risk of going over there until he was done, which I knew was another six to nine months,” she said. “That made it better.”And then when he got assigned to Korea, we knew that was the one place in the entire world where he wouldn’t get further shipped to Iraq. That was comforting, although Korea has problems of its own.”And there are other places; less threatening, perhaps, but equally nerve-wracking for the families of those soldiers and sailors stationed there.Junior Patty Rose’s brother Paul is a 2002 Notre Dame and Navy ROTC graduate. After graduation, Paul Rose attended nuclear power school in South Carolina for a year, and then spend time training in New York and Connecticut before being stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Ensign Paul Rose now runs a nuclear reactor on the U.S.S. Buffalo, a fast-attack submarine.”It still feels like a long way from home,” Patty Rose said, “even though he’s stationed in the United States, he’s away, and it’s weird not knowing when the next time I’ll see him is.”Both girls agree having their brothers far away is hard on the family, as is the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what is happening, but that knowing they are happy in their jobs is comforting.”Obviously, I’m concerned about my brother as much as everybody else, but I guess I just knew that he was doing his job,” Patty Rose said. “He’s glad he can make a difference. That made me feel better.”Gretchen Ryan agreed.”I guess just the fact that I know he loves it and it’s what he really wants to do [helps],” she said. “He does love it. That helps a lot knowing that he’s happy.”Another hardship for her Nicholas Ryan, she said, is that he is married.”He got married right when he got out of the academy,” Gretchen Ryan said. “His wife was able to be with him in Alabama, but right now she’s home in New Mexico.”Furthermore, being able to keep in touch with their family members seems to make the separation easier, and both are thankful for the work their brothers do.”Cell phones are fantastic,” Patty Rose said. “It’s comforting to talk to him. Talking to him … makes it seem like everything’s OK, and even though he isn’t over in Iraq, there is an inherent danger in everything they do.””I worry about him, but I’m so thankful for what he does and what they all do to serve our country … and give us the freedoms we have,” she continued.Both Patty Rose and Gretchen Ryan have views of the war that are grounded in their concern for the troops.”Initially I supported the war,” Gretchen Ryan said, “because … I think it was very important to take care of [Saddam Hussein]. But now that it’s done with, I don’t like that we still have troops over there. I think we need to let those people do it on their own.”Patty Rose expressed the importance of support for the troops.”…whether you support the war or not, … support the men and women because that’s the most important thing,” she said. “We have smart people running the country … I trust them to make good decisions.”We have no idea what [the soldiers] give, and we’ll never be able to understand.”