Parents always worry about their children wherever they have gone, U.S. Army Col. Jack LeCuyer told a group of parents gathered in a Guilford home.
And what about when the children have gone to war?
"You can't tell them to be home at one," said a woman standing next to the colonel.
She was among more than 100 people who had gone to the home of Ed and Barbara Brody yesterday. They are the parents of American troops in the Persian Gulf. Parents have been meeting at the Brody home since November, when the couple founded a support group.
LeCuyer spent about an hour telling the parents about the goals and general operation of the American military, the capabilities and strategies of the Iraqi forces, and religious and counseling services offered to soldiers. After his talk, the parents asked many questions:
Are the troops exhausted from working at night and if so, how can they fight competently? What are their duties? How close are they to the front line? Are they receiving their mail and are they still allowed to write letters? Has the unfamiliar terrain in the war zone created military disadvantages for U.S. troops similar to those they encountered in Vietnam?
LeCuyer, who is chief of the Army Initiatives Group for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operation and Plans, told the parents to remember that Desert Storm is a 24-hour operation. As far as he knows, he said, there is no policy prohibiting the troops from writing home. And America went into the Vietnam War "piecemeal" lacking the widespread public support that Operation Desert Storm has, he said.
After LeCuyer's speech, the parents formed smaller groups. Some of them expressed concern about difficulties in contacting their children and keeping track of their activities.
"If you're a parent you know when [your son] is out -- when he's been out drinking -- when he comes home drunk," said Marcia Binder of Reisterstown.
Bonnie Gray of Owings Mills said she is overwhelmed by guilt when she does simple things that her 27-year-old daughter, who is in the Persian Gulf with the National Guard, cannot do -- like taking a shower every day or going to the movies.
"I'm having trouble feeling guilty that I'm over here doing these things, and she can't," Gray said.
Others said they feel that they had encouraged their children to join the military in the first place.
Lillian Perry of Owings Mills had tears in her eyes during the discussion and said, "[My son] doesn't want to kill anybody. It's like a nightmare, and I can't believe it's happening. I feel like I'm sleeping and I need to wake up."
Ed Brody, chief executive officer of Brody Truck Rental Inc., and Barbara Brody, a social worker, started the group because their son, Lt. Stephen Brody, 24, an Army platoon leader, has been in Saudi Arabia since August. Now their other son, Sam, 23, a Navy pilot who has been stationed in the Philippines, is preparing to join go to the war zone, Ed Brody told other parents yesterday.
"I'm sure he'll be OK, but it'll be tough to say goodbye," Brody said.
LeCuyer said he wishes a similar support group had existed when he was in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.
"My parents would have been much better off if there had been a group like this," he said.