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Archive for Friday, February 1, 1991

LOCAL FAMILIES FIND SUPPORT FLOURISHES DURING GULF CRISIS

February 1, 1991

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Russ McCabria, Kevin Stewart and David Russell were members of Lawrence High School's 1987 graduating class. Now they're part of U.S. forces deployed in the Persian Gulf war zone.

That LHS connection was discovered Thursday night when a support group for friends and family members of people serving in the Middle East met for the first time.

"Maybe we ought to get out the high school year book so we can see all the kids who are over there," said Mary Stewart of Lawrence, whose son, Kevin, is a U.S. Army private stationed near the Kuwait border.

Mrs. Stewart, Bob and Cherry McCabria, and Melissa Russell were three of four unrelated family members at Thursday's meeting who discovered they each had a son or husband who graduated from LHS in 1987 serving in the Middle East.

"THERE MUST have been a super recruiter around that year," quipped Bob McCabria of rural Lawrence, whose son, Russ, is a Marine stationed near the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait border.

At the support group meeting, organized by the local chapter of the American Red Cross, family members and friends of local military personnel serving in the gulf region discussed their shared concerns and heard about Red Cross services.

About 15 family members and Red Cross volunteers attended the meeting at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

Jo Byers, Red Cross chapter director, told those attending the meeting that the Red Cross could get emergency messages to their relatives and help with various financial and emotional problems.

"One of our primary functions is to be a link between the servicemen no matter where they are stationed and the family," she said. "We can help with a lot of problems, and we encourage anyone who is experiencing a problem to call us."

BYERS SAID the American Red Cross, through its military communication lines, has been sending about 4,000 messages a day to U.S. troops in the Middle East on behalf of their families.

The messages include notification of births, deaths and serious illness, she said.

Byers said the Red Cross does not inform family members in the states if a relative has been injured or killed in action.

"The casualty notifications come directly from the military branch," she said.

In addition to answering questions about Red Cross services, Byers brought informational brochures for family members.

"Everyone has concerns and worries, and we don't want to limit this to families," she said.

FAMILY MEMBERS said they were concerned about not knowing where their relatives were located. They agreed to exchange telephone numbers in case they needed to talk to someone "in the middle of the night."

"I think that would really help," said Melissa Russell, whose husband, Navy reservist David, was activated for duty less than a week after they were married. He recently left Norfolk, Va., to serve on the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier located in the Persian Gulf, she said.

Family members also said they were worried about Iraqi treatment of prisoners of war.

Byers said the Iraqi government still has not allowed the International Red Cross to check on the treatment of allied POWs. President Bush and other allied leaders have called on the Iraqi government to allow Red Cross inspection.

"Iran and Iraq have been notorious for not abiding by the Geneva Convention," Byers said.

"THERE'S NOTHING we can do to force them to let the Red Cross in, but hopefully enough pressure will be brought on them for that to happen."

The support group's next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the senior center.

Members plan to make valentines for their relatives at the meeting. The meeting is open to anyone concerned about the men and women stationed in the war zone.

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