School Children Share Feelings About Parents At War

January 20, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Some signs were subtle:

A child with her head down on a school desk, saddened by the news that her father was sent Friday to the Persian Gulf.

A television on throughout the day in a school library.

A second-grader with a red ink drawing on the corner of his desk depicting an airplane, a flag, and bombs exploding in the distance.

These were just some of the small signs last week in Aberdeen area schools, which have high numbers of students from military families, that news of the war in the Persian Gulf was affecting students.

With so many students coming from military families stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, it was inevitable that some parents would be sent overseas as part of the U.S. military build-up in Saudi Arabia and the PersianGulf. Some students' parents just last week received orders that they were to go to the Middle East.

For the most part, classes, tests, basketball games and swim meets went on as usual because keeping upthe school routine can make the students feel more secure, said school administrators.

Harford teachers say that in classes last Thursday and Friday, students showed insights that let teachers know the war was on their minds.

* At Roye-Williams Elementary School on Thursday, a second-grade teacher was showing her students a map of the Middle East and a picture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The studentscommented on how mean and angry Hussein looked. One student thought he knew why.

"The student said Hussein must not have been loved asa child," said Principal Steven Hardy. "It gives some real insights on behalf of that child as to the understanding of what's going on."

* The faces of students in Charles Hanssen's last-period class at Edgewood High School Friday were serious as they discussed the eventsin the Persian Gulf. A friendly group, they were unusually reserved during the class discussion. Uppermost on the 10th-graders' minds waswhat action, if any, would Israel take if Iraq attacked a second time. "Will it become a nuclearwar?" "Why haven't we started fighting onland yet?" were among the students questions raised.

* Clarence, a 14-year-old freshman at Edgewood High School, said he was "up and down" all last week.

His father, an Army sergeant, was sent to the Persian Gulf Aug. 25, just a week before Clarence started high school. Clarence's father was scheduled to return home in February. But that seems unlikely now.

"I'm afraid that if the war goes on for years, my dad won't be able to come home for a year," said Clarence. "I'mreal worried dad might be going out with the ground troops. I don't want anyone to die over there, especially my dad. I don't even want to think about that part. I pray every night."

Although Clarence and his family have tried to continue normal activities -- such as Clarence's participation in school basketball games -- concern about his father dampened the family's celebration of brother Correy's 12th birthday Thursday. And his 4-year-old sister Alishia doesn't really understand the absence.

"I want people to support the troops and to keep praying that the war will be over soon," Clarence said.

* Juan,a 17-year-old student at Aberdeen High School, said he's trying to take his father at his word. Juan's father is a civilian employee withthe Army stationed in the gulf who calls home as often as he is allowed.

"My dad called yesterday and he says he's not in any danger and not to worry, so I'm not going to worry," Juan said.

But the troubled look in his eyes remained. Later he said, "I'm real worried even if he's not on the front." Juan writes to his father at least oncea week.

Juan said his mother and two sisters also are worried.

"My sister from college calls all the time, always complaining aboutthe protesters. That's what really makes me angry -- the protesters.Protesters think it's just about oil. But it's not. It's about freedom," Juan said.

"I'm pro-choice. I've protested for abortion rights, but this is totally different," said Juan. "The war hasn't hit home to them."

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