Students have questions, express fears about war WAR IN THE GULF

January 18, 1991|By Doug Birch

Some had fathers or uncles who served in Vietnam, though that was before they were born. Several students had family members or friends who are in the Persian Gulf, or who might go if the fighting continues.

Most were thinking hard about a very hard question: Are some things worth dying for?

Another generation of American children is being touched by war.

"I was really scared," said Melissa Silvestri, 14, of Hamilton, recalling the moment she learned that U.S. warplanes were screaming over Iraq. "I've read about wars and stuff, but I've never lived through one . . . If it goes on too long, then some of my friends will go in. It's pretty scary to think that they could die in a war."

Melissa was one of 15 students -- four eighth-graders at St. Dominic Catholic School on Harford Road and 11 fifth-graders at Padonia Elementary in Baltimore County -- who talked about the war with Iraq yesterday.

Twice each day this week at St. Dominic, students have recited a prayer for President Bush and Saddam Hussein that asks God to "enlighten their minds and fill their hearts." Susan Eisenhart's class at Padonia has been exchanging letters over the past several months with a Waldorf native stationed in the gulf.

All but one of the 15 students supported the invasion. Most had questions about the war. Several had fears.

Ryan Spalding, 13, of St. Dominic, leaned forward with his hands clasped and talked about how he had once thought the conflict was only over oil and not worth the sacrifice. Ryan's father had served in Vietnam. "He said war is hell, and he'd never want to be in another war again," said Ryan.

But in recent days, Ryan said, he had come to view things differently. "You have to keep your allies," he said. "You have to help other countries so they will help you."

Most children at both schools agreed. "I would probably have attacked, too," said Patricia Wyrwascewski, 14, of St. Dominic. "We're trying to help people here. If we were in trouble, we would want people to help us fight for what is right."

Matt Kelly, 13, also at St. Dominic, said his family is concerned that his brother, 18, might be called up if the war drags on and the draft is reinstated. "That got me kind of scared," he said.

But he supports the assault. "If we didn't attack, he [Saddam Hussein] would have probably consumed the whole Middle East," he said. "Then he would think he could attack the U.S. or something."

Patrick Chilcoat, 10, of Padonia, said his father is an Army colonel who will probably be sent to the gulf if the war lasts more than a few weeks. And he said he feels "sad for the people who are over there." But, he said, "I think what the president did was right."

While most supported the war, the children recognized it could be costly.

"A lot of questions were running through my mind about how many of our soldiers are going to die and how many innocent civilians are we going to kill," said Cheri Lynn Shaffer, 10, of Padonia.

Ricky Lindhorn, 10, of Padonia, was the only child to say he opposed the conflict. He was sitting with a group of other members of Ms. Eisenhart's class at a table that held a picture of their pen pal, Staff Sgt. George F. Proctor of the 101st Airborne Division.

"I feel that we shouldn't have gone to war," he said, ". . . because a lot of people die. And I wouldn't want to see George Proctor dead. I'd like to see him when he comes back. He said he'd visit us."

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