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Students cope with family in Iraq

Maureen Reynolds | Monday, March 22, 2004

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series examining issues in the war in Iraq.

For most, the war in Iraq over the past year has been distant, only on television and in the newspapers. But for some, the fighting has hit too close to home.Those with family members in the military who have been deployed to Iraq deal with uncertainty and frightening news reports every day, but somehow, they keep optimistic knowing that their loved ones are where they are needed.”I think it brings more of a personal investment,” said Erica Kane, a member of Notre Dame’s Army ROTC, whose brother, Christopher, is a first lieutenant stationed in Baghdad. “When you watch the news or read the paper, it’s not just something that is far away. It’s close to home.”Christopher Kane graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2002, after serving in the ROTC program. Now, according to Erica Kane, he is an armor officer, in command of a platoon of four tanks and 16 soldiers and has been in Iraq since May.Sarah McMahon, also a member of Army ROTC, said that she tries to cope with her step-father, Lt. Col. David Convoy, a Notre Dame and Army ROTC graduate, being overseas by focusing on the positive aspects.”He loves doing what he does,” McMahon said. “He really believes in what the army does and what the military does.”Convoy is working in Basra, Iraq in a civilian capacity as part of the Army Corps of Engineers.McMahon said that when she found out her stepfather was leaving, she was upset, but remained grateful for his and others’ sacrifices.”I was worried for his safety, but glad that we’re doing what we’re doing and glad to be a part of what was going on,” she said. “I’m definitely proud of him for volunteering and taking his responsibility well. But I’m still very scared every day.”Families also cope by recognizing that soldiers do indeed have a responsibility that could be anticipated from the time of enlistment.”… being in ROTC, you know [deployment] is always a possibility,” Erica Kane said. “It’s not something you’re excited about, but it’s something that you know might happen. You have to do whatever you’re called to do.”Any military family must cope with the absence of a loved one, but also with the fear of that person not returning. According to McMahon, keeping busy helps to alleviate some of that fear.”I try not to watch the news or read the papers,” she said. “I try not to think about the bad stuff, but try to think about the good stuff instead.””It makes me feel better that he’s technically safer,” McMahon continued, referring to the fact that Convoy is overseas working technically as a civilian. Erica Kane says that her faith and willingness to be a part of the effort is helps her cope with her brother’s absence. “I do rely on my faith and have trust in God to bring him home,” she said. “This does bring me peace of mind.”I send packages and do other things for different soldier groups and units, not just my brother’s, helping any way I can.”Both McMahon and Kane say that they keep in touch with their family members through e-mails and occasional phone calls. Christopher Kane is expected to return in early May and Convoy in June.Both remain grateful for the sacrifices of their loved ones, which is how they get through the day-to-day worries of the war.Erica Kane remembered a picture her brother sent home as a symbol of the sacrifice of the soldiers and of the greater good of that sacrifice.”[Christopher] sent a picture of him and a little boy at a bus stop last fall,” she recalled. “He said any time anyone asks why we’re there, tell them, ‘We’re there so this little boy can have the freedoms that you’ve had since you were born.'”We’re providing a lot of opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”