Soldier's mom: 'I've got peace in the midst of this'

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon reverberated particularly loudly for Hood River resident Debbie Lee. As she tried to comprehend the acts that she says she "just can't get my mind around," her thoughts turned to her family.

Lee's two sons and her son-in-law all are in the United States military. Her oldest son, Kris, 27, is a Marine stationed at Okinawa. Her youngest son, Marc, 23, is in the Navy and will soon begin Navy Seals training in San Diego. Lee's son-in-law, Chris, is in the Army, stationed at Ft. Knox, Ky.

Lee is resolute about it.

"I think it's time," she said in her living room last week where, atop the piano, sat pictures of her sons both in and out of uniform. "Terrorism has gone on so long and with no consequences.

"Even though that may mean loss of lives -- even for one of my guys -- it's time for something to be done."

Lee said Kris, whom she's in contact with every couple of days by phone or e-mail, called her last week and told her he'd been given orders to be on 24 hours notice for deployment anywhere in the world.

"His bags are packed," Lee said, adding that she assumes he knows more than he was allowed to tell her. She said their conversation had a different tone than normal.

"I detected not so much fear but apprehension in his voice," Lee said. "He said, `Mom, I'm afraid that I won't be able to do what my country trained me to do. I don't want to let my country down'."

Lee said she was silent for a moment, unsure of how to respond. "Then I told Kris how much I loved him," Lee said. "I said, `You know my heart's always with you,' and I told him how proud I am of what he's doing to protect our country."

A couple of days after that phone call, Lee received a letter from Kris addressing some necessary practical information. "He said he had to give me his insurance information," Lee said. "He wrote, `Mom, I hate to do this but I've got to'."

Lee is familiar with family hardship; her husband, Jerry, died seven years ago. As she did after losing her husband, Lee is once again drawing on her Christian faith for strength.

"I've seen God work miracles," she said. "So I've got a lot of peace in the midst of all this."

Lee said her son Marc will be in Navy Seals training for two years -- assuming he makes it through the elite program. "He told me I don't need to worry for two years," Lee said. But Lee is well aware of the potential for a lengthy war on terrorism -- and the likelihood of the military's elite forces like the Seals being at the conflict's forefront.

"We could be facing this for years," she said.

Lee's son-in-law Chris recently completed Officer Candidate School and is currently in Armor training. She said he likely won't receive a change of orders anytime soon.

"But they've got to be concerned," Lee said, referring to her daughter, Cheryl, and the couple's two small children.

Lee considers the position she's found herself in a bit ironic. "We weren't a `military' family," Lee said. When first Kris, then Marc, told her little more than a year ago that they planned to join the military, she tried to discourage them. But they were interested in the many benefits of joining -- such as education perks.

"I think it was all the timing of it -- probably for many in that generation," Lee said. Recent U.S. military conflicts were relatively small scale -- "Even Desert Storm was so far removed," Lee said -- and the threat of serious confrontations seemed small.

But Lee supported her sons. "Once I realized that was their decision, I was 100 percent behind them."

And she still is, despite the heightened risk the Sept. 11 attacks has now put them in.

"We've been through a lot in our lives," Lee said. "I consider it an honor to be a mom of all of them."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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