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Families wait, worry about soldiers

Margaret Harris spends a lot of time watching the news these days.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Margaret Harris spends a lot of time watching the news these days. At her Proctorville home, she passes the time as best she can, trying not to let the crisis in Kosovo occupy all her thoughts.But that’s a difficult task at times like these for a mother of three sons in the Armed Forces.

With odds like that, her thoughts are never far away from her sons, Air Force Airman Aaron J. Harris, Air Force Senior Airman Anthony Harris and Army Reservist Albert Harris Jr. and whether or not they will be sent into the heat of battle, she said.

"We are sitting on the edge of our seats," she said, emotion evident in her voice. "Aaron is doing pretty well. He’s just out of technical school and works on airplanes, both on electric and environment, but he doesn’t know if he’ll go or not, and that’s hard."

Although she worries much of the time, it doesn’t stop the feelings of pride at knowing what her sons are trained and willing to do for this country’s freedom, she added.

"Of course I’m upset, but we taught our sons to be proud of the country they live in, and apparently they took it to heart," she said. "They are willing to fight to keep our country free, and that makes us extremely proud. I know I’m going to worry, but it’s the price we pay so we can say and do what we want."

Lillian Baals’ grandson said he doesn’t think he will be shipped over to Kosovo.

But this wouldn’t be the first time Army Staff Sgt. Larry J. Moore has been sent overseas to fight.

"I just talked to him," Mrs. Baals said. "He’s stationed in Georgia. He’s been in the army for 13 years and he’s been overseas three times already."

One of those trips took him to Operation Desert Storm, Mrs. Baals added.

"They kept it from me that he was on the front lines," she said. "He was on the front lines in one of the tanks. And all the rest of them knew it but me and they didn’t tell me. I’m 85 years old and I kind of get tore up about that stuff. I raised my grandchildren like they were my own. I wanted to know and I found out anyway."

Mrs. Baals won’t let her family keep news of Moore from her again.

Even though it upsets her, she wants to know when her grandson is in trouble.

"It’s pretty tiresome and you know you get tore up wondering what’s going to happen next, but it’s better to know," she said.

Moore assured her last week, though, that there was little chance he would be heading to Kosovo.

"He was in hopes that he doesn’t have to go," Mrs. Baals said. "He said that if it really broke out for war, though, he’d have to go. And you don’t know what’s going to break out in the next minute. The way our president is talking, it’s liable to."

Maureen Riley has already heard that her son, Army Sgt. Terry Riley, is on standby to be sent to Kosovo.

When she heard about the three prisoners-of-war, Mrs. Riley got out the yellow ribbon and went outside her restaurant, Kountry Kookin in Ironton.

"When those boys were taken, I thought that could be my son," she said. "Any one of them could be my son. They are America’s children. When we have our children in harm’s way, we should show patriotism and our love. Putting up a yellow ribbon seemed like the natural thing to do."

On Penobscot Trail, Robert and Judy Belville watch events unfold on television with more than a little trepidation.

"Whatever the cost, they should get those boys out of there," Belville said. "They just need to get them out."

Seeing the glimpses of the battered, bruised soldiers awaiting trial in Yugoslavia makes their hearts wrench in sympathetic agony – they know it easily could be their own son staring solemnly into the cameras.

"He’s in Virginia now for advanced training and is scheduled to go to the Mediterranean area after that, but they told him he’s subject to be called at any time," Belville said.

Belville’s son, Marine Lance Cpl. Madison A. Belville, graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1994. Four years later, he followed in the footsteps of his father, who served in the infantry during the Korean Conflict. His grandfather also served his country in the infantry during World War I, Belville said.

But coming from a military family makes the waiting no less filled with apprehension, he added.

"I’m about like any other parent who has a son in the service," he said. "He wanted to go in to serve his country, and he’s made them a good Marine. We’re proud of him."

Pride, however, doesn’t outweigh the feelings of sadness that accompany the three soldiers held captive – especially when the next person to get called could be a loved one, he said.

"There are any number of things that could happen, and I know he could be sent," he said. "That’s why I certainly have sympathy for the parents of those boys because I’d feel the same way if my son was over there."

In the meantime, Belville and his wife said they consider themselves lucky that their son is out of harm’s way for now and will continue to pray for the men and women who are not as fortunate.

"My wife and I both are praying for peace and for the president to make the right decisions on everything, and our hearts and sympathies are out to those three prisoners and their families," he said. "Right now, that’s all any of us can really do."