FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Like a mantra, you hear it over and JTC over again in this military town: "It's what he's trained for."
With 30,000 troops from neighboring Fort Bragg on duty in the Persian Gulf, spouses seem to offer up the explanation as a kind of emotional salve.
"It's what he's trained for," said 18-year-old Shandra Wright, whose husband, Steven, an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division, is in the Persian Gulf.
Mrs. Wright, who has a 1-year-old son, works at the Operation Desert Shield Message Center, a storefront at the local mall where military families come for solace -- and for information.
"It just feels good to be here because everyone else is in the samesituation," said Mrs. Wright, who since her husband left in August has moved into her first house, gotten her first job and watched baby Derek struggle to learn how to walk.
Up until the war broke out, TV news crews in Saudi Arabia were sending back videotaped messages from Fort Bragg soldiers.
Now, families continue to stop by to purchase red-white-and-blue ribbons, Operation Desert Shield T-shirts, maps of the Middle East and tapes of the Message Center theme song, "Hero For Today":
"When you stand for freedom, you sometimes stand alone.
"Defending our America on shores so far from home.
"With family standing by his side, our Lord still leads the way
"On this life-long journey of a Hero For Today."
* It has been said that The Point News, a news stand and soda fountain at the intersection of Old and Hay streets, the town's two main thoroughfares, is Fayetteville's front porch.
Helen and William M. Ward have watched the soldiers here go to war three other times since they purchased the news stand in this city of 75,000 nearly a half-century ago.
"We were here during the Second World War, Korea anVietnam," said Mrs. Ward, who drinks from a coffee cup that says "I'm Always Right."
"The way I feel -- the way we all feel down here -- is that this war is something that had to be fought. This is for the whole world," she said. "We have to rid the world of another Hitler."
Mr. Ward frequently talks when Mrs. Ward is talking; it is their way. This is what he said during his wife's short discourse on war:
"It's what they're trained for, after all. It's why they're here."
* For Yvonne McQuire, many things remind her of her husband's absence, but none seems to rock her as much as the sight of a couple.
"Just seeing two people together, a couple," she said. "It cathrow me into a spin. It reminds you all over again: He's gone."
Mrs. McQuire, 23, married her husband, Steve, a year ago -- anmarried, too, the Army life.
"I'm not disappointed," she said. "It's hard, but it is the life we'vchosen. The people here, we don't talk about how long it'll last, or the dying.
We know it'll take a while," said Mrs. McQuire.
"I guess a lot of us never expected this to happen," she said"But it's what they trained for."