View Full Version : Local family watches a father and daughter deploy to Persian Gulf

03-10-03, 07:22 AM
Local family watches a father and daughter deploy to Persian Gulf
Suzanne Wilber walks across the campus at Coastal Carolina Community College like most students — with a backpack slung over her shoulder.

But pinned to the backpack are two yellow ribbons. One has her husband’s name on it, the other has her daughter’s name.

On Feb. 8, she said goodbye to her daughter, Elizabeth, a private first class in the Army. Elizabeth deployed to Kuwait with the 82nd Airborne Division. Five days later, she braved a similar situation with her husband, Gunnery Sgt. John Wilber. The Camp Lejeune Marine is also in Kuwait, about an hour away from his daughter.

Suzanne and John have been married 20 years, and for 16 of those years, John has been in the Marine Corps. Deployments are never routine, especially with a war looming. Yet when a couple has been through more deployments than they can remember, saying goodbye may have a little of that “here we go again” feel to it.

The mood wasn’t quite so casual when Elizabeth, 19, embarked on her first deployment. They are more than mother and daughter. The two are best friends. They talked by phone every day when Elizabeth was at Fort Bragg.

“I was nervous for her,” Suzanne said. “It’s war. It’s not just some deployment or going out into the field. There’s potential danger involved. As a mom, I’m afraid for her and what she may have to face.”

The day before Elizabeth left, mom, dad, and her brothers and sisters gathered to see her off. “She was nervous,” Suzanne said. “She was hugging me and saying, ‘I wish you could come with me.’ And I said, ‘God can certainly watch you better than I could if I were standing right next to you.’”

Elizabeth, the oldest of six children, remained strong. She didn’t shed any tears. “I think she put up a tough front for her dad,” Suzanne said. “It’s that whole military thing.”

Before her husband and daughter departed, Suzanne had hoped that John would be the first of the two to deploy. Once Elizabeth left, Suzanne was anxious for John to join her.

“Now I’m just glad her daddy’s over there with her,” said Suzanne, her voice lowering and getting a little shaky. I feel better knowing that he is there with her. I’d rather have him there, even though they are in different camps and different parts of the service.”

Father and daughter have already had a brief reunion. Dad visited Elizabeth in All American City, Kuwait. While their get-together was brief, he said he would try to make it back by May 27, Elizabeth’s birthday.

Elizabeth’s desire to enlist in the Army came as a shock to her family.

In high school, she preferred the art club to sports. She likes fashion, design and art. Last Christmas, she asked for and received a hot pink, fiber-optic Barbie Christmas tree (with shoe ornaments) for her room in the barracks.

So why would she choose to enlist, and request, of all things, jump school?

In the spring of 2001, Elizabeth was a senior at White Oak High School and considering her future. She wanted to attend a fashion/design school out-of-state but knew that would be expensive.

Then one day, a recruiter called.

“It pretty much started out as a joke — talking to a recruiter — and snowballed from there,” Mom said.

Jump school appealed to Elizabeth because of her dad’s experiences. Prior to the airborne, Elizabeth had little in common with her father. He likes to fish and hunt, while Elizabeth would rather spend her day in an art museum. Being airborne gave them a connection.

Elizabeth had to start adapting to Army life prior to enlistment. At 5 feet 3 inches tall and 105 pounds, she didn’t meet the enlistment criterion for weight. But like a wrestler who wants to move into a heavier weight class, Elizabeth gorged the night before her enlistment physical to meet the minimum weight requirement.

And she continues to be flexible. After arriving in Kuwait on a Tuesday, Elizabeth called her mom and told her that it was horrible there. She was upset because she wouldn’t be able to shower until that Friday.

“And she’s a two-shower-a-day girl,” Mom said.

By the time Friday arrived, Elizabeth felt so grungy she didn’t care whether she showered.

On the home front, Elizabeth’s five siblings seem to be taking the deployments in stride.

“During Desert Storm they weren’t old enough to know what was going on,” Suzanne said. “Now that they’re older, they’re more aware of what is happening. They see the protests on TV. Still, they grew up in the military and they’re used to the separation. It’s a way of life for them.

“We pray every morning before they go to school for their dad and sister,” Suzanne said. The family belongs to Catherine Lake Baptist Church. “It’s our confidence and trust that God has everything under control.”



03-10-03, 07:29 AM
Thanks for posting this,,, I'm having a couple of rough days here,,, not sure why,,, just extra emotional I guess,,,,