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They Also Agonize Who Wait : Gulf crisis: In just three weeks, 60 families and friends of servicemen have called a new support group ‘for proud families of our military.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ignorance is bliss, according to the cliche. But for Kathy and Terry Collier, the parents of Army Pvt. Darrin Collier, ignorance is agony.

Like many other county parents with military sons and daughters in the Middle East, the Colliers, who live in Buena Park, have had little contact with their 24-year-old son since he shipped out from Fort Bragg, N.C., on Aug. 11 to an unknown base in the Saudi desert. The Army will not permit him to say where he is and where he might end up.

But rather than sit by the phone or the mailbox awaiting further word from Darrin, the Colliers have filled the anxious hours by forming a support group “for proud families of our military.” In just three weeks, 60 families and friends of servicemen and women have called seeking a sympathetic ear, Kathy Collier said.

“I’ve had numerous calls from people who were in tears the first week this happened,” she said. “I’ve talked for 10 or 15 minutes to people about how hard it is to deal with this situation. There have been a lot of people who needed somebody to talk to.

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“The hardest thing for all of us to deal with is that this happened so fast. We didn’t have time to adjust.”

On Saturday, the Colliers and other volunteers with sons and daughters deployed in Saudi Arabia set up a small table bedecked with yellow ribbons in the Buena Park Mall to provide information on the group and to sign up new members. Among the volunteers was Ginny France, an Anaheim resident whose son, Marine Cpl. Don France, saw combat in Panama in December and shipped out two weeks ago from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“I don’t know where he is right now,” said France, who said she has not seen her 22-year-old son for 2 1/2 years. “He could be in the middle of the Atlantic.”

She added that “the toughest thing for me is listening to the news before I go to sleep and listening when I get up, and hoping there’s nothing new.”

France, who wore a small pendant pinned to her blouse with a picture of her son in his Marine dress blue uniform, said she last heard from her son in a five-minute telephone call before he shipped out. She reacted excitedly to the news that the Colliers have received two letters from their son since he arrived in the Middle East.

While the letters were comforting, Terry Collier said he is concerned that neither letter from his son mentioned the 12 letters he and his wife and other relatives have sent in the last two weeks. He said he feared that young men and women deployed far from home have not been receiving mail.

“Our fellows are the ones over there--they must be concerned about why they haven’t heard anything,” he said.

The support group “is not only to support ourselves, but we’re trying to garner support for our people in the field,” he said.

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The Colliers and other volunteers will be in Buena Park Mall again on Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., outside of the east entrance to May Co., to answer questions about the support group.

The group’s first public meeting will at 2 p.m. Sept. 9 at Crescent Southern Baptist Church, 622 N. Gilbert St., Anaheim. Those interested are asked to call (714) 522-8178 by Wednesday.


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