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Loved ones left behind also heroes

Siblings and parents who have loved ones serving in the armed forces should be considered as being heroes. They live every day faced with the fact that they may not ever see their loved one again, or they may come home with life-altering injuries.

On April 3, it was reported that 18 more U.S. Troops were killed in Iraq. And no one is certain how long troops will be stationed in that country.

Jacqueline Edwards is one of those “heroes” whose son, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Edwards, 31, is making a career of the Army and has been sent into dangerous

zones three times since his enlistment.

He will be celebrating 12 years in been in the Army in August and his last tour of dangerous duty overseas was in Iraq from November 2004 until November 2005.

He has also done overseas duty in Kuwait for eight months and Kosovo for six months, and at present he is stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., with his family, wife, Karletta and their five children, Raquel, 15; Markel, 11; Tyick, 9; Teriya, 7; and Tahj, 5.

Jacqueline said when she first learned about Derrick’s orders to serve in Iraq, she thought that he was joking.

“I broke down and cried, and cried and said, ‘Oh, God, not my son.’ It was hurting and very depressing that my only child had to go to Iraq,” she said.

In Iraq, Derrick worked in the operation section as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Specialist for the 297th Military Intelligence Battalion. He said he worked at a Tactical Operations Center, keeping a record on convoys and the number of people going out of the gate where he was stationed.

“Duties there are just like working at any job,” he said. “You perform them without thinking of the danger that may exist around you. When you are not performing them, there are always recreation activities to keep your mind occupied.”

He said those recreation activities took place at a gym set up like the ones here in the United States. He said he took part in activities such as lifting weights, and swimming and soldiers entertained themselves by participating in basketball tournaments.

He also said we are making progress there and agreed with some government authorities that news reports don’t report enough of the good things going on in the country.

“They don’t report on things such as bridges and infrastructures that are being rebuilt and electricity that is being restored from bombings. I think that we should be there, and if I were asked to go back, I would,” he said

However, his mother doesn’t agree with him.

“I hate to think about so many children who will have to grow up without fathers and then I think of those fathers who seem to be fighting a senseless war,” she said.

To keep her mind off the danger when he was in while in Iraq, she said on a daily basis she read the Bible and prayed daily for God to protect her son and the other soldiers. To help her get through the period, she also had the support of her mother, Evelyn J. Edwards and siblings, church family at East End Baptist Church, friends and co-workers.

In seven years, Derrick will retire from the army.

Jacqueline’s advice to others who may have loved ones serving in dangerous parts of the world is to pray and find something to keep their minds occupied as much as possible.

“You can also find volunteer work and support groups, send care packages, write your loved one as much as possible and have faith that they will return home safely by the grace of God,” she said.