Families of Marines meet

By Brandi Watters

— ANDERSON — “Sleep well, America. My Marine has your back.”
Vickie Widing was quoting a bumper sticker Saturday, but the words rang true for the Anderson mother. Like the dozens of parents who joined her at the Marine family support meeting at Riley’s Party Barn on Saturday, Widing’s son is one of thousands who’ve been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Her son, Cpl. Zachary Widing, recently completed two back-to-back tours in Iraq and will most likely return for at least two more tours before his active duty service to the U.S. Marine Corps is completed in two years.
The patriotic mother was in the company of friends this weekend when the Marine Family Gathering met for a pot-luck lunch in the donated space of Riley’s Party Barn.
The group formed eight years ago when a Marine mom, Linda Wright, began using online support groups to navigate through life in wartime.
This year, the event was hosted by Widing and Connie Huse, two Anderson mothers whose sons have seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two met at Anderson Seventh-day Adventist Church and decided to keep the support group going once Wright’s son was no longer enlisted.
Widing says enlisted men and women are given step-by-step instructions on how to handle themselves at wartime, but families receive no such guidance.
“We’re left at home knowing nothing,” she said.
The support group aims to help families of the deployed cope with the separation and anxiety that come along with military service.
Huse’s son, Sgt. Scott Huse, is currently on his third tour overseas. His first two tours were in Iraq, but he has been deployed to Afghanistan this time around. Her son experienced a number of close calls at the front line in Iraq, including the loss of a fellow Indiana soldier. Huse fought tears Saturday as she recounted her son’s story from the front.
The sergeant was riding in a convoy of Humvees when an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded underneath the Humvee in front of him. He rushed to the scene of the explosion, only to find that Lt. Sean Blue of Munster had been killed.
“He was killed right in front of my son,” Huse explained. “He had to decide who they could save and who was unsavable.”
Widing said military families never stop worrying about bad news, when they will learn that their own soldiers have been killed in action. News of a death is typically delivered by two Marines driving a black, government vehicle. “You worry every day that a black car will pull up to your house.”
Huse said it was even difficult to return home knowing that the message may be waiting. “You hold your breath when you turn the corner because when they’re deployed, you don’t know if that black car will be there when you get home.”
Riley’s Party Barn was filled with families like the Widings and Huses on Saturday, but one soldier sent them all to their feet. Lance Cpl. Geoff Kamp, 20, sat in the back of the venue, saying little until his presence was announced to the crowd.
Huse announced that the young Marine would be returning to active combat in Afghanistan on April 29. The proud parents shot to their feet and applauded the soldier, about to do a second tour of the war zone before reaching the age of 21.
Kamp said he appreciated that his mother had a support group to comfort her in his absence.
“It’s like in everything you do in life,” Kamp said. “It helps to be with people who know what you’re going through. For us, it’s our buddies to our left and right.”