By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The morning after President Bush told the nation that the U.S.-led offensive against Iraq had started, a single head was bowed in the Assembly of God church.
Balloons, ribbons and flags marked the door of the church, the site of today's 12-hour prayer vigil for U.S. soldiers. In the foyer, forms for prayer requests sat next to a stack of lists of 23 Hi-Line soldiers serving in the armed forces.
But while the church had not yet filled, and although people in town were starting their jobs like any other day, the war was on the minds of the families of Havre soldiers.
Mayor Bob Rice has planned a rally on Friday morning to support Havre troops. The rally will take place on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., Rice said.
Nancy Corner, the mother of Jodi Corner, 19, of Havre, who is serving on the USS Abraham Lincoln, said she received several e-mails Wednesday night from her daughter telling her to turn on CNN to see her ship.
"She says she's not sure what to think because they're not really telling her that much," Corner said.
She said her daughter helps launch planes on the aircraft carrier's deck, and that this morning they were loading bombs onto the planes.
"It's got to be frightening for those kids on the deck of the ships," she said.
Winona LaMere of Box Elder said her son, Darrell Sun Child Jr., is on the USS Carl Vinson, and that when she last heard from him on Monday, he was near Guam.
LaMere said she and her husband were "stressed and worried" because "he's only 21, and I have another son who's going to be turning 18 here if they have the draft.
"But I'm trying to be strong and just pray that nothing happens," she said.
At least one parent expressed relief after so much waiting.
"The longer they sit there, the more vulnerable they are," said Clarence Wohlwend, whose son, Kyle Wohlwend, is a meteorologist with the Marine Corps responsible for keeping pilots informed about the weather. "I'd rather have them moving," he said.
He also said his son ran into a former football teammate from Havre High School, James Compton, two weeks ago during a debriefing. "Here you are in the sand in Kuwait - we believe - and here is this kid you played football with," he said. "Small world."
Wohlwend said he has not had contact with his son for two weeks, and that it was difficult not knowing where he is.
Other parents expressed that frustration as well.
"I'm definitely concerned. I'm trying to find out exactly where he is," said Lane Hauge, whose son, Torger Jon Hauge, was supposed to be sent from Germany to Turkey with the 4th Division of the 121st Signal Battalion before the Turkish parliament refused to be the staging point for a northern front against Iraq.
No matter what their concern for their sons and daughters, all of the parents said they support the war.
"I'm not opposing anything, but I wish it could have been done some other way. I don't know how it could have been done any other way," Hauge said.
The families of area soldiers as well as the public and city employees have been invited to the rally in Havre, Rice said. The rally will be filmed, and tapes will be sent to the area troops.
"I just want to show the kids that Havre is a hometown place and we're proud of them," Rice said. "They're hometown heroes, you know."
"I got to thinking how these kids must feel when they find out what's happening with these negative demonstrations, because I've been there, you know," said Rice, who served in the Navy during both Vietnam and the Gulf War.
"I didn't sleep well last night and I was having some thoughts about what the kids must be thinking about now and what they're going through," he said. "I wish I could be there with them."