War taught a lesson: The meaning of family

December 24, 1991|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Evening Sun Staff

YES, THERE'S still an orange ribbon on Mary Jane Wright's front door in this season of red and green and wreaths.

Last winter, when Wright learned that her son had been ordered to the Persian Gulf, she felt the sort of panic that demanded action. "He told me, 'I don't really need anything, but don't let the people back home forget about us,'" she recalls.

Wright started a support group for families and friends of service members in the Persian Gulf. The chapter of the Operation Orange Ribbon Support Group met every week in Bishop NTC Cummins Reformed Episcopal Church in Catonsville.

Now her 32-year-old son, Donald Kahrs, a staff sergeant in a helicopter unit of the Seventh Cavalry, is safely back in Germany. He has visited home twice and will be stationed in Savannah, Ga., in March.

And Wright, her husband Ernest and their children are counting their blessings.

"At Thanksgiving we talked about how last year we were all preparing for the war. This year, we are preparing for the birth of our second grandchild," she says.

It's been quite a year for the 52-year-old West Friendship resident: Donald's safe return from the ground war in Saudi Arabia; the wedding of her daughter and the birth of her first grandchild; her father's 85th birthday; the marriage of one son and the engagement of another; her partial retirement from Harry M. Stevens Maintenance Services.

And 1992 looks almost as dramatic: Another wedding, the birth of a second grandchild and her husband's retirement as a sales representative for Alban Tractor. Wright will also help her parents move from their home in Florida into the Heartlands retirement community in Ellicott City.

She says the war has changed her family's perspective.

"Donald's been in the service for 10 years and missed many holidays. But this year all the children wanted to send him gifts rather than having just one draw his name from the pot. It has become very real to everybody that his job is in the military rather than just being a job away from home.

"I think we've certainly learned to appreciate the meaning of family. Also, the meaning of war."

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