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Family#039;s faith holds them together as son goes to war

A combination of religious faith and the Internet helped Homer and Linda Waddle of Ironton cope while their son was stationed in Afghanistan with the Air Force for seven months.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, families of those who serve in the military held their breath as America's sons and daughters were called to duty.

For the Waddles, the call came Sept. 20 of last year, only days after the world was stunned by the attacks on the American homeland. Kevin Waddle, a senior airman in the Air Force, was sent overseas but couldn't reveal where he was going, even to his family.

Despite the unknown, the Waddles were proud to have him serving his country.

"It is not just him, it is all service people," Homer said. "It could be someone else's son or daughter and it would be just the same. When they leave, they know they have a job to do and they go do the job."

Linda said her faith kept here from being scared after the initial shock.

"It is the most horrible feeling you can have," she said. "I put faith in God that he would take care of him. I knew he was going to be ok."

Kevin called home about every three weeks to talk for a few minutes, while planes could be heard flying in the background, Homer said.

Homer and Linda agree that e-mail truly helped bridge the gap. The family would send e-mail often and it would take anywhere between two to twelve days to get a response.

"You start wondering, is something wrong? Did something happen?" he said.

Each time, Kevin would eventually contact his family who was anxiously awaiting a response from half way across the world.

"I would tell him what was happening here," Homer said. "I kept him up on football season. I just tried to take his mind off of things."

It would have been much harder to handle without e-mail, Linda said.

The family's church congregation, Coal Grove United Methodist Church showed their support and sent numerous cards, Homer said.

Kevin Waddle, who joined in October of 1999, was stationed in Afghanistan for seven months.

He returned to his station in Tucson, Ariz. in April but he could be called out again. Kevin was unable to be reached to contribute to this article.

"The military is not cut out for everybody, it takes a special breed," Homer said. "Kevin always wanted to serve, ever since he was a kid."

His love for the outdoors and the military began when he was a Boy scout and just grew from there, Homer said. While not exactly a tradition, many members of their family have served in the different branches of the military.

Even here in Lawrence County, the attacks have definitely brought out the patriotic side of people, Homer said.

"Before (Sept. 11) you would drive up and down Fifth Street and see no American flags," he said. "Now, you see one on every house."

The number of recruits at the Ironton branch U.S Army recruiters reflected this surge in patriotism. In less than a full year, eleven more people have joined this year compared to last.

"I'd definitely say there are some patriotic people here in Lawrence County," Sgt.-First Class Thomas Dillingham, recruiter at the U.S. Army Recruiting office in Ironton. Dillingham has served in the army for 18 years and traveled around the world.

"We have the greatest country in the world," he said "We love what we have. Three or four years are a small price to pay for the benefits we reap from (service)."

For the Waddles, Kevin has returned to Tucson, but it is a tenuous relief because they know he could be called out again at anytime.

"A lot of mothers have sent their children off to war," Linda said. "I'm just lucky mine came back this time."

Michael Caldwell/The Ironton Tribune