Soldier's mom notes land war with one-time sip Gulf ground battle brings yo-yo of relief and tension to area families. PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

February 25, 1991|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Evening Sun Staff

Eileen Bolgiano of the Towson area has given up cocktails until her son, David, comes home from the Persian Gulf, but at the news of a successful start to the ground war she decided to mix herself just one drink.

The invasion suggested to her that "it's almost over," Bolgiano said yesterday, but she intends to go back to abstaining for the rest of the war because she knows it has longer to run.

"I feel relief. I've been on such a yo-yo," said Bolgiano, whose son is a captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. "It's certainly not without apprehension."

Other families joined her in this mixture of elation and worry after enduring weeks of tension over the approach of the ground war and the heightened risks it would bring to their family members in the gulf.

For Mary Jane Wright of West Friendship, who assumes her son is in action flying an Army helicopter, the ground war means "it's one day closer to their coming home."

Danny Somers of Westminster wished he could switch places with his son, a Marine lance corporal, whose division was deployed to the theater of battle. "I've had indigestion for three weeks," Somers said. "There's nothing I could do. I have to go over there and change places."

Somers, who fought with the Army in Vietnam, knows what his son is going through. "No young man should have to go through that," he said. "Rounds snapping past your ear. That's a hell of a feeling."

A Maryland National Guard soldier's wife, who asked that her identity be withheld for her safety, said her husband called from the gulf yesterday morning to say that "everybody was OK."

That call "relieves a lot of stress," said the woman, who lives in Catonsville.

She heard about the ground war while attending her aunt's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. She said she feels odd sometimes going to a family party without her husband, whose military police company was called up last November. But, "it's like it's becoming a way of life," she said. "He's not here."

At the Bolgianos' home in Charlesbrooke, just north of the city line, Eileen and her husband, John, took heart as they watched television news footage of American troops moving ahead, seemingly with scant opposition, and of long lines of Iraqi prisoners of war.

They wouldn't speculate whether their son was among those members of the 82nd Airborne who parachuted into Kuwait. The Bolgianos were cautious about believing anything that didn't come straight from the military men who conduct the official press briefings.

As they watched the TV, a newsman appeared with reports from Iraqi sources about a particularly bloody battle near Kuwait City that killed many soldiers on both sides. "I don't see why he's repeating the lies of the Iraqis," John Bolgiano said. "They haven't told the truth yet about anything."

The Bolgianos don't think of themselves as a military family, but they have always signed up when the country was at war, Eileen Bolgiano said. Another of her sons is a physician who recently received orders from his Naval Reserve unit to report for active duty on March 7. Her husband was a Marine corporal in World War II. And her father was an Army corporal who fought in World War I.

In her lap she held a picture of her father in uniform, as she remembered how he escaped death twice. Once he rushed to board a troop truck, but succeeded only in tossing his knapsack aboard before the truck drove away from him and ran into a German bomb a little way down the road.

Another time, an officer rousted him and his men from their sleep in a farmhouse and sent them to a nearby pasture. During the night, a bomb hit the farmhouse.

"There were two near misses he had, and I felt God must have watched over him," Eileen Bolgiano said, adding that she trusted the same would be true for her son in his war.

"Maybe I'm wrong," she said, "but I have a tremendous sense of peace."

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