FAMILIES OF THE 586TH
DECEMBER 14, 1995
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now we turn to some of the soldiers' wives, whose long wait is just beginning. With us are Betty Arnold, she and her staff sergeant husband are expecting twins in April; Sherry Patterson who is married to a specialist and is mother of two; Tammy Webb, wife of a sergeant, who is expecting their third child in March; Pamela Wade, a warrant officer's wife with four children; and Shannon Austill, married to a specialist and the mother of a three-month- old baby. Thank you all very much for being with us. Pamela Wade, your husband was one of the few people that actually left 10 days ago, right? He went in an advanced group.
PAMELA WADE: Right. Correct.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How are you doing? How are the kids doing?
PAMELA WADE: Well, we're doing--taking one day at a time, and the kids, they--I don't think it really has--they really realize how--that their dad is gone because my two-year-old, she's constantly asking me, "Where's my dad? Where's my dad?", and I guess she thinks any minute, you know--I say, well, sweetheart, he's at work, and I'll say like, when it gets dark outside, she'll ask that question again, "Where's my dad?".
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was this a big surprise for you, this mission? Is this the kind of thing when your husband signed up or when you married him, if he was already in the army, that you expected he'd be doing?
PAMELA WADE: No, not really. Simply because when he first came in, I guess, there was--it seemed like there was a peace about the--I'm just going to say land--you know--there was--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There was peace everywhere.
PAMELA WADE: Yeah. There was peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So this mission is a surprise to you, this kind of a mission?
PAMELA WADE: It is. It is.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are you worried about it?
PAMELA WADE: To be perfectly honest, yes, I am, simply because I don't know. It's the not knowing. I really don't know what the mission is about over there, and I'm really trying to find out exactly, exactly, you know, what's--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is this the kind of mission that you expected, or your husband expected? I mean, this peace implementation, that's what I'm really trying to get at here, is this a surprise to you?
BETTY ARNOLD: No, considering Somalia and Haiti, no. We've been going into some of the smaller countries and helping them out, but it's kind of--it was a shocker at the time, considering my husband just had gotten back from Korea--but other than that, my husband is in the military, and this is what he's paid to do, and you--you kind of expect it, and my husband sat me down and said, these are the things, and this could happen, and if you can't handle it, then we shouldn't get married, so I was pretty well informed before I married my husband because he had been in the military for several years.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tammy, is this the kind of mission that you think the military should be involved in now, in this post-Cold War time?
TAMMY WEBB: Umm, I'm getting a whole different--I guess I'm sort of selfish because I'm thinking about my two kids and my baby and Christmas and I hope President Clinton is watching this, because I'm sure he's going to be with his family Christmas Day. You know, what saddens me the most about the--I'm--you know, we're not in it for lifetime so it makes a difference--you know, you guys are--but, umm, you know, soldiers are just a bunch of numbers, you know. My husband is not a special person with individual talents and so much more than--(crying)--okay-- they're just a bunch of men, just send 'em over, you know, no big deal, and I'm mean, I have the most incredible husband in this world, and I can't wait till we get out, because there's so much more to life than this military.
BETTY ARNOLD: That's the one thing that I had to think long and hard about before marrying my husband, because he informed me of all this. You know, it's kind of like you know this goes along with the military.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And they are volunteers. It's not like they were drafted.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Exactly.
BETTY ARNOLD: This is their job, and this is what they've chosen to do, so it's not like it's something that we shouldn't be prepared for. We should expect these things because this is their job. And you just kind of have to deal with 'em on a daily basis, and it's hard, it's real hard.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Shannon, what do you think about it? You have a tiny baby.
SHANNON AUSTILL: It's, it's not easy. You know, I have tried to stay positive, you know, but I just--I'm having a real hard time with it, you know, and I just--I have like a gut feeling that, you know, they're going over there for a good cause, but I don't think it's going to stay that way. I have a very, very bad feeling about what's going to happen. And in, in my heart, you know, I have pretty well much, you know, just prepared that, you know, that there is a possibility that my husband may not come home. You know, there is a possibility that soldiers won't come home.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just let's go back one minute to the good cause. What is the good cause, in your view?
SHANNON AUSTILL: You know, it's like I wish that here in the states that we could be able to keep peace, you know, like our military is trying to do over in foreign countries, you know, and it's not their fault that they're fighting. You know, I mean, this is something that they've been doing for years, you know, and I'm glad that Americans in the military are gearing their energy more towards a peacekeeping than a war effort.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Did the--has the President eased your mind at all with things he said, Sherrie?
SHERRIE PATTERSON: Umm, I--not really, because I, I personally don't think it's going to be too peaceful once all the soldiers start getting there, and I personally feel that just like she had said, they shouldn't have took 'em before Christmas. Nobody can guarantee our soldiers are going to be safe, they can't guarantee their return home. I know that's his job. I married him. You know, we married into this, but I don't see what today made a difference leaving to the day after Christmas made a difference leaving. And if they can't promise they're going to be safe and everything over there, they should have let them have one good Christmas home with their families before they left.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about you, has the President eased anybody's mind?
BETTY ARNOLD: Well, I feel that there's always different things to expect in all circumstances, and I thought he cannot personally guarantee us that they can be safe. That would be about like saying, you will never have a car wreck, or you will never be hurt in any time in your life. I just don't think that's a possible thing to do, but I think that he has pretty much spoken, and you know, that if it goes beyond peacekeeping, that we will--he will stand up for his--the military forces over there and get us out.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does it bother you--the polls show that over half the American people are, are really worried about this mission and are not behind it--does that bother you?
PAMELA WADE: Yes, simply because it's bad when the rest of--like the Congress, they're still like debating if they want to follow the President. That's awful. They're not following him but our husbands and the kids' fathers and stuff, they're still over there, like say--I know anything could happen to you at any given time, you know, you don't have to be over in Bosnia for someone to, to shoot you or anything like that, but yet, still with them being over there, like I said, with all of the land mines and I was thinking of Oliver North--he was just here at some Baptist Church and he was saying, like he's voiced his concerns that it could be like another Vietnam and he was like, well, I think the American people should get ready because some soldiers will probably be coming home in body bags. And I mean, you know, we all realize all of that. All of us, you know, we're not--we know that this could happen and everything, but it's just sad that the whole country is not pulling together at this time of year because no one can ever know how you feel unless they have been there and no one knows how it feels to be, like I say, when your children come up to you and ask you these questions, and--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yeah. So do you feel the same way about the fact that the country is not united, and this makes it harder for you?
TAMMY WEBB: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, it's just completely split up, you know. It's one thing for an American citizen or, you know, someone to say, yeah, I don't mind soldiers going over there, I think they're going over there for a good cause, but, you know, it's something completely different, you know, when it's your wife or it's your husband. You know, it's your children's mother or father, or it's your parents. You know, I mean, it's different, you know, because you have something that's--you know, you're sending your loved ones away, and you may never see them again.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, let me ask you this. This is--no matter where your husbands were being sent, this would be a terrible day for you. I mean, it's just terrible to have 'em go anywhere, but it is worse that it's Bosnia, do you think? Do you feel differently because it's Bosnia?
BETTY ARNOLD: Not necessarily because it's Bosnia, but, umm, any kind of deployment into circumstances as they are, such as Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, whatever, you know, it's a lot deeper- -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. You say Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, all internal, civil conflicts, is that the key?
BETTY ARNOLD: It's a lot different than say, well, my husband was gone for a year to Korea. You know, you know, there were problems over there, but it was a whole lot different, you know, this was a year tour that usually everybody in the military has to take, and this is something that-- you're going in a hostile situation, and it makes you worry, and, of course, a lot more concern.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But is it--what I'm trying to get at--let's say there had been a hostile situation in Korea, which is more sort of clear. We have a long history in Korea. Would you have felt differently about that, or is it just the fact that your husbands are in a hostile situation?
BETTY ARNOLD: Well, of course, I would feel different, because we've had troops in Korea for years and we're going into a country that we have nobody in, and, you know, we're putting our feet on their territory.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So really that it's unknown territory. These are some of the first troops. It's a civil war.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE IN GROUP: Exactly.
BETTY ARNOLD: There's no way of knowing what to expect, and you just got to hope for the best, and--
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE IN GROUP: And pray.
BETTY ARNOLD: --and pray.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you all so much for being with us.
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