WESTMINSTER — Their loved ones are home, so members of the Westminster Support Group no longer talk only of tension and fear.
Nancy Spaugh and DonnaJones, both residents here, formed the group in December to help themselves and others cope with the dangers faced by their children serving in Operation Desert Storm.
Among the 11 active members now, there remains a deep concern forthose thousands still in the Persian Gulf. The group will not disband until all the troops return, members said during Thursday'ssession at the old Kessler Shoe Factory on Schaffer Avenue.
They again voiced their determination to work together, doing whatever they can -- writing letters, sending packages -- to show support for the many thousands still serving in the gulf.
"People here should know the jobof the personnel stationed in the gulf is just asimportant now as itwas last August," said Spaugh. "And they are not getting the same support from home that our sons had."
Spaugh spent hours glued to the Cable News Network while her son, Spec. Gerald M. Jerry Rosier of the 82nd Airborne, was in the gulf. The coverage was comprehensive andconstant. Now, finding any news from the gulf is hard.
The troopsare working in stifling heat and still in harm's way, said Sandra Bowman.
The Manchester resident knows full well. Her son, Army Spec.Charles L. Bowman Jr., was killed April 2 in southern Iraq aftera bomblet exploded in his hand. In one of her last conversations with himin March, he said the heat already was unbearable. She said the group "saved her sanity," and that she will be forever grateful for the comfort the group offered after the loss of her 20-year-old son.
"The people in this group did everything for our family," she said. "Their incredible support continues still."
When Army officers, carrying young Bowman's body home, arranged a special private ceremony on Route 30, the support group accompanied the family.
"Sandi didn't want to welcome her son home in a funeral parlor," said Spaugh. "We all met the hearse as it entered Carroll County for a prayer."
The group has provided Bowman and her husband, Charles "Lee", with an outlet for dealing with their grief, she said.
"We know Sandi misses her son terribly," said Spaugh. "She can talk about him and the war freely here with us."
Bowman brought Army letters of commendation for the group to read Thursday. The Bowmans also have been there as each soldier returned to families in the area.
"Sure, we would have liked to see Charles walk in, but it helped us to see the other kids coming home," she said. "We wanted to bepart of the welcome. They alldid such a good job."
The members understand and share the Bowmans' sorrow, Spaugh said, because they know it could have happened to them and that it could happen again.
Clara A. Smith has no relatives in the gulf but has attended the group's meetings regularly. With alist of addresses of 300 troops, she writes letters tirelessly. Recently, a soldier wrote her, lamenting that when the war ended, so did about 95 percent of the letters.
"Men and women, who have no idea how long they will be there, write asking for news," she said. "Rightnow, they feel like a forgotten people."
Smith shares those letters with the group, whose members assure the soldiers they are not forgotten.
"Writing letters is my way of showing support and helping other parents," said the mother of two teen-agers. "The government isgoing to stop the free mail privileges, so I am enclosing stamped envelopes now."
Bowman plans to continue writing and sending packages. She said the group is "not giving up on any of them."