Local vets recall anxiety of waiting

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Anxiety, anticipation, apprehension, and stress -- those are just a few of the words that Jim Meineke, Ned Miller and Ray Talkington, all armed forces veterans, used to describe what the troops in Persian Gulf are experiencing in the waning moments of a possible war with Iraq.

"Sitting there waiting makes a 24 hours day seem like 48," said Talkington, who served in the Army for three years and was part of the troops who occupied Germany at the end of World War II. "That is the time when your family and being home comes to mind the most."

"Everyday (the soldiers) wake up and when nothing is different they probably think, 'What the hell is holding us up,'" said Meineke, who served in the Marine Corps Infantry and fought in the Korean War. "You're trained to always think ahead to the next step and when that step is uncertain, it is bothersome."

Miller, who had tours of duty in the Korean War, Laos and Vietnam, spent some time in the Mojave Desert during his 20 years in the service (four with the Marines and 16 with Army Special Forces) and he said acclimating to the surroundings is another priority while waiting.

"The heat and sand are unforgiving," he said. "It's a different world down there and they have to make it their world."

Veterans watch along with the rest of the world as the war of words and disarmament unravel. The men and women who have been there before take extra interest to see if the country they once fought for will send another generation into battle.

According to the 2002 census, there are 1,514 veterans residing in Moffat County. That number makes up 16 percent of the Moffat County population that has been there before in one way or another.

"If I were 18 or 19, I'd be out there and ready to do it again," Meineke said. "My thoughts go out to those men and women and their families."

While they keep updated, the veterans have seen the demonstrations for peace.

"The people that demonstrate make me hotter than a pistol," he said. "These people would be speaking three different languages if it weren't for the efforts of troops."

Miller questioned how many people are actually protesting.

"It's just my opinion, but if you look real close into the camera when people are demonstrating, it is always the same faces," he said. "Whatever the cause is, it is always the same people getting in front of the camera."

While many of the protests have been geared toward the U.S. government's policy and not the troops themselves, Talkington said it still affects the soldiers.

"People say they are against just the war and they support the troops," he said. "It still is demoralizing to the troops to see the demonstrations. There should be support for them right, wrong or indifferent."

Another group that is on the soldiers' minds is their families.

"It's tough right now for the families," Talkington said. "All they can do is stay in touch the best they can and give their support."

While times and communications have changed, the troops are still limited to letters much of the time. Meineke remembered the letters he received.

"The letters never really talked about how the family felt about me being over there," he said. "It was just news from the home front and while it was 30 days late, it was nice to have."

As for the fears of the family, Miller said one thing to lessen fears is the actual number of troops that will actually be in action.

"They might send 150,000 troops in the area but only 40,000 of them will actually be in the in the battle at one time," he said. "I know it's not that comforting, but just because they're down there they might not be in the line of fire. They just have to pray that the good Lord will bring them home safe."

Through it all, the veterans believe war is a part of the cycles of the world and that the country is what it is because of the previous sacrifices.

"There are going to be battles, with it every five, 10 or 20 years, somebody in the world is going to disagree with us," Miller said. "We're never going to have

peace forever."

"People in our country have had things pretty dog-gone easy," Meineke said. "These are sacrifices we make so that those people toting signs can have the right to do that. They think that our freedom will last forever if we just sit here. I wish they were right, but the people that have and are protecting them know it takes more."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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