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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