"Well, well, well ... this is a crazy place."
So began Talon Jayne's last email from the Kuwaiti desert to anxious family in Craig on March 20 -- hours after coalition forces first struck Baghdad.
Jayne, a switch operator and private first class in the U.S. Army's 86th Signal Battalion, was positioned just south of the Iraq-Kuwait border. The 19-year-old son of Tim and Tarryn Jayne and newlywed sought to comfort with words and humor -- including a touched-up photo of President Bush's right arm wrapped around Saddam Hussein's neck in a U.S.-styled "nuggie."
"Don't get me wrong, this is war," Jayne wrote. " ... I have seen a few things that I don't care to see again. But I have no fear, that might sound crazy, but God is with me, and I know that He will take care of me and His will, will be done."
Mom's waiting for the next note, blessed, she said, to have as much word from her son as she's had.
"I read this over and over again," said Tarryn, who has set aside a living room wall covered with Talon's pictures, maps and honors from his nearly two-year-old Army career.
The Jaynes are among numerous Craig families watching, waiting and praying as loved ones offer skills and courage for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Tarryn said faith sustains all in the family, including Talon's wife of three months, Katie, who waits for her husband's return at an Arizona Army base.
"We know the community is praying for the kids over there," Tarryn said.
Non-stop news reports are both a blessing and a curse, while the channels change as anti-war protests turn up.
"I have to walk away from it sometimes," she said.
It is the same for 19-year-old Jill Durham, who waits for word from her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Levi Durham.
"The more you don't think about it, the easier it is to cope," Jill said.
"Writing letters makes it seem like he's here," she added. "I write every day."
Letters from Levi, 20, who is attached to the Marine Corps' 1st Tank Battalion, have been sparse and slow.
The most recent letter received last week was postmarked Feb. 28.
The two married more than a year ago as Levi finished boot camp, while the young couple had about four hours in January to say good-byes prior to his deployment to the Kuwaiti desert.
But family and friends remain a steady support network, said Jill, who is due to deliver the couple's first child in July.
"I sent him a picture of the ultrasound and a cigar with wrapping on it saying, 'It's a boy.'"
Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.