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Despite News, Families’ Worries Won’t Cease Till Soldiers Return

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There was no confetti or popping of champagne corks at the weekly Wednesday gathering of soldiers’ wives.

Hazel Wynn said she just can’t stop thinking about her husband, who shipped out just three days ago, and her nephew, who has been among the missing in action since the first days of the ground war.

For Martie Ilagan, the postwar waiting game still may postpone the June wedding she planned with her fiance, a Marine sergeant.

And Madelene Harville is afraid that her husband may suffer ill effects from military-prescribed drugs taken to protect against Iraq’s store of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

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Although encouraged by President Bush’s televised declaration of victory and conditional cease-fire, a small support group of Marine family members sat almost solemnly in the living room of a member’s small apartment, saying the real celebrations would be reserved for the return of their loved ones.

“I thought it was a good speech,” Ilagan said, her eyes flashing back to the television screen. “But I’ll believe it when he comes through the door.”

Since her fiance’s departure last August, Ilagan said, she has not been able to sleep in her own bed, but camps out on the living room couch, clutching an old T-shirt she hasn’t washed since the sergeant wore it last summer.

“I cried today when I turned on the television and saw the people celebrating over there, and when they showed the Marines walking through the streets,” she said. “I am proud of all of our people over there.”

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Wynn, who was only recently notified of her nephew’s status, said she was afraid Bush’s declaration might allow Saddam Hussein a diplomatic exit from the violence he began.

“He is just like a robber who went into a liquor store, robbed the place and killed the owner,” Wynn said. “Now he wants to say, ‘Hey, forget I took your stuff and ravaged your people; just let me go.’

“If I had somebody killed over there, I would want revenge. And that revenge would mean to bring him (Hussein) down. I don’t trust him at all.”

Since learning that her nephew, an Army private from Jacksonville, Fla., is missing, Wynn said she has been frustrated in her communications with the military. She also has not been able to learn the destination of her husband, a Marine gunnery sergeant who left aboard ship from Long Beach.

“They can’t give you any information at all,” she said.


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