forum home > articles home


Families Who Wait
By Carol Ann Ellis

It seems appropriate at this time of year, when most of us are anticipating the holidays and waiting for the time when we can be together with our loved ones, to remember and honor the families who wait all year long; those with loved ones serving in the Armed Forces. They wait for them to come home, they wait for them to be deployed and sometimes they wait for uncertain outcomes.

One such person, Barbara Hines of Ocean Pines, is currently waiting to hear with a degree of authority when her son, Marine Sgt. David Burton, will be redeployed. David is part of the inactive ready reserve and has been called up again. Although he left the Marine Corps in November of 2005, he has been told that about May 2008 he will be deployed for a 12 month period, to include duty overseas.

Barbara knows all about waiting. David joined the Marines on July 12, 2001.  He was sent to Parris Island, SC, for infantry training. After completing boot camp he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, as part of the 2nd Marine Division, 8th Marine Regiment, familiarly called the 2/8.

In January 2003 his regiment was sent to Kuwait by ship.  It took a month to arrive and once there his unit waited in the desert for orders. For Barbara this was hard also, because he had no access to phones or e-mail once he was off the ship and letters were their only means of communication. On February 12, 2003 Barbara received the last phone call before he went into combat. The next call came three months later, on May 12, 2003. Barbara believes one handles such situations by keeping a positive outlook.  She says, "Your attitude is half the battle.  While being realistic about the dangers of war, you have to believe that your loved one is safe."

David's regiment crossed the border into Iraq on March 13, 2003. He also served in Liberia and Afghanistan. Barbara explains that a Family Readiness Officer is available to keep families apprised of the well being of their relatives and report any casualties. She remarks that although she keeps up with the war on television, the news services can be misleading. There have been instances where imbedded reporters have announced casualties even before the families were notified and some of these reports were inaccurate.

Understandably, these events are extremely hard on families who, as Barbara says, are "glued to their TV's and computers" for any scrap of news. One important way they deal with these uncertainties is through the support of other military families. Barbara says that another Marine mother and she "got each other through." One parent has created a website just for the 2nd battalion.  That way they can share news which is not classified. Appropriately, Barbara is membership chair of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines. 

Another strategy is sending "care packages" to their relatives and the troops in general. Barbara is retired from the Social Security Administration. Her office, which employs 450 people, got together and donated 12 boxes of care packages to the troops. Another welcome gift is newspapers. Barbara sent her son Baltimore papers, especially the sports sections. 
Mary Suplee of Ocean Pines and her family have experienced another and ultimately sadder aspect of waiting. In 2005, her son Dan was deployed to Afghanistan as part of the National Guard. He joined the Army in 1986 and later worked for the U.S. Department of  Homeland Security in Florida.

In April, 2006, while scouting for a convoy group in Kabal, Dan sustained severe head injuries when his Humvee was rammed by a civilian truck. He was transported to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he was treated for two months.  Eventually, he was moved to the VA hospital in Tampa, Fl where, after suffering a stroke, he succumbed to his injuries on August 3, 2006.  Mary recalls how very difficult it was during that four-month period, praying, hoping, and not knowing if he would survive. Though he was barely responsive his family visited him and kept up hope. Besides his mother and seven siblings, Dan is survived by a wife and two teenaged children.

Mary says that after his death they received such an outpouring of love from the community in Pinellas, FL and from her friends in Ocean Pines that she could not begin to thank these people enough for their help and support. On October 28, 2006 there was a beautiful, memorable ceremony honoring Dan at Ocean Pines.

Mary feels that you are given a special grace to get through these tragedies. She says that you "develop a patience to look at things as subjectively as possible." And when the waiting is over, Mary concludes, "You pick up the pieces and go on."

Barbara Hines summed up the waiting process for many families when she said, "You do a lot of praying when you're waiting." These two stories are representative of the thousands of families here and abroad who could tell similar tales of waiting, praying and supporting the troops who are protecting our country.

Send an Email Letter to Courier Editor - be sure to include your telephone number.

Uploaded: 12/12/2007