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thedrifter
03-27-03, 10:06 PM
A wife waits and watches


By Adrian Walker, Globe Columnist, 3/27/2003

There is the television war, and then there is Elizabeth Carver's war.
The television war is almost constant drama: battle upon battle, advancing and retreating troops, bombs falling in the Baghdad night.

For Carver, the wife of a Marine reservist now on active duty in Kuwait, the war is more of a waiting game - as in waiting for Chief Warrant Officer Peter Carver to return home to her and their four children on the South Shore.

She is not looking for anyone's sympathy. Her husband, a parole officer in civilian life, had been a reservist for 18 years. He always knew active duty was a possibility and was more than willing to be called, even though at 42 he wasn't expecting it. But that doesn't completely allay the anxiety.

''Naturally, I'm nervous,'' she said last weekend. ''It's a big unknown. To where? For how long? It's something we always knew was a possibility, although nothing truly prepares you until something happens. I think the uncertainty has probably been the hardest thing to handle. Basically, everything is taken out of your hands.''

Even on live television, the war has a slightly unreal quality - something happening to other people far, far away. It's possible to switch away to a basketball game, even if it makes you feel guilty. But switching off the war is a luxury denied the loved ones of those fighting it.

Both Peter and Elizabeth Carver are originally from Dorchester - he from Neponset, she from Jones Hill. They met when he was fresh out of boot camp, and celebrated their 10th anniversary not long ago. Peter Carver's Dorchester roots have given rise to a neighborhood campaign to support the troops. Specifically, Peter's brother Philip has organized Dorchester S.O.S. (Support Our Soldiers), which is collecting supplies for soldiers. Sunscreen, shaving supplies, magazines, and baby wipes to deal with the sand are among the items they're taking up. Letters of support are welcome, too. It's a way to be useful.

Meanwhile, Liz Carver is watching the war - though she takes it in small doses. Her children are age 7 and under, and she doesn't want them watching it. She watches before they wake up, and after they go to bed. She's encouraged by the progress the troops have made, but nervous too.

''It's a little nerve-racking to have someone over there and see it unfolding in front of you,'' she said.

Communication with CWO Carver has been sketchy, his wife said. One day last week she received four letters from him, which had been written over a span of three weeks. His unit is at Camp Coyote, north of Kuwait City.

Of their four children, only 7-year-old Sean is old enough to understand that his father is in a war. Maeve, who is 6, ''knows, but I don't think she understands a whole lot of it.''

''She realizes he's gone; she misses him greatly,'' Carver said. ''She said it's sad to have a birthday party without Dad. But I don't think she even realizes there's a war going on.''

Carver has discovered, to her delight, that she's part of an extended family. She's heard from many of the reservists her husband has served with over the years, offering support. Some of them, former reservists who'd finished their time, wanted to rejoin and go on active duty.

Some people have asked her if there was any way Peter could have avoided being activated. ''That is something that never would have crossed his mind,'' she said. ''He's proud to be a Marine and proud to serve his country.''

Meanwhile, Liz Carver watches TV and counts the days.

''I'm anxious, certainly, and some days are worse than others. I have faith that he will be home safely - I treat it as a matter of time. I believe that everything is going to work out for the best. But it's impossible not to be anxious.''

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 3/27/2003.
Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Sempers,

Roger