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thedrifter
04-01-06, 11:37 AM
Love and war in northern Michigan
As soldier prepares to ship out, a local mother worries

By PATRICK SULLIVAN
psullivan@record-eagle.com

TRAVERSE CITY — Kris Babel will get a call any day from someone telling him it's time to go to Iraq.

Babel, a former Marine and a sergeant in the Michigan Army National Guard, is excited to experience what many of his Marine buddies already have.

"I'm optimistic," said Babel, 27, who recently worked as a recruiter but also is trained as a military police officer. "I'm really good at it. Everybody I work with is really good at it — I can't work at a desk or in a factory."

Babel's mother Beth is less excited. Or, more accurately, she's terrified that her son is going to a war zone.

Kris Babel learned in February that his company, the 1775th in Pontiac, would be attached to the 46th Military Police Company in Kingsford, near Iron Mountain, and would be shipped to Iraq.

He decided to wait until his parents returned from a Caribbean cruise to tell them, and when he did, the news was devastating.

"I got in the car and I was crying, I just felt so bad," Beth Babel said. "The last thing I think about when I go to bed at night is Kris going and it's the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning."

Mother and son don't share each other's view on the war — Kris Babel supports the war and believes media accounts exaggerate the negative. He believes he gets more accurate accounts on the situation in Iraq from friends who have been there.

Beth Babel doesn't believe in the war. She and her husband, Jerry, said they believe troops should be brought home.

"I don't think there's a whole lot more we can do over there," she said. "I think that those people have been killing each other forever."

The tug-of-war between mother and son has been going on for much of Kris' life.

One Halloween, Kris wore a camouflage costume which his mother later hid because he wanted to wear it all the time. At age 17, Kris asked for his mother's signature so he could enlist in the Marines early. Beth refused.

Beth, who lost friends who went to the Vietnam war, learned from her daughter that Kris enlisted when he turned 18.

"I'm proud of him, I'm very proud of him," Beth said.

She said she is also gradually adjusting to the notion of Kris going to Iraq.

"I've kind of gotten over the crying all the time, but I don't quit thinking about it," she said.

Kris Babel, a 1997 graduate of Traverse City Central High, doesn't know when he will receive the call that it is time to head to Texas for training and then to the Middle East, but he has started to prepare.

Last weekend, he married his girlfriend, Kate Redman, of Lake Ann, at a courthouse ceremony.

Kate, 19, has been in the Air Force for one year and said she has made peace with her new husband having to head off to war.

"He's been wanting to go as long as I've known him," she said. "He feels like he's sitting on the sidelines, like there's a game going on and he's sitting on the sidelines."

Babel expects to be in Iraq for around a year.

"We have good equipment, we have good training for it," he said. "Nobody's parents want them to go. This is not the first war where they felt like that."

Ellie