Proud families worry as war with Iraq looms

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By JASON ECK

A gentle breeze blows life into an American flag in front of Terry Gonzales' Sonora area home. The same wind unfurls a smaller U.S. Marine Corps flag hanging below it.

Inside the Gonzales' home, red, white and blue candles burn. An American-flag-print pillow lies on the blue couch. FOX news plays on the television.

The Gonzales family Terry, her husband, Tom, their daughter, Jenny, and grandmother, Rita are proud.

And nervous.

Marine Lance Cpl. Thomas "Tommy" Gonzales their son, brother and grandson is in the Kuwait desert, one of thousands of U.S. military members already deployed to the Middle East.

The Gonzales family is just one of many foothills clans dealing with the emotions of having a loved one overseas or on standby as U.S. military might continues to build every day.

About 150,000 U.S. land, sea and air forces are already surrounding Iraq, and thousands more are arriving each day, gearing up to carry out President George W. Bush's plans to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

'I pray every day'

The 22-year-old Gonzales, a member of the First Battalion 7th Marines, was deployed Jan. 16.

His mother Terry remembers the Wednesday evening call from her son before he left Twentynine Palms for Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, and the Thursday morning call 6:42 a.m. to be exact when he said his final goodbyes.

"I just kept hoping he wasn't going," Terry Gonzales said of her son, a 2000 Sonora High School graduate. "I'm so proud of him, so very proud. So is his father.

"Whether (the war) is right or wrong, he is focused. He has a great attitude. It's his job. He's proud to be doing what he's doing."

Tommy is in advanced operations-logistics. The family doesn't know exactly what Tommy does, but Terry guesses he takes charge of supplies.

But while Terry knows her son is physically and mentally strong enough to do the job, she also is worried.

"I pray every day," she said. "I have a lot of wonderful people who are supporting us.

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