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Soldier Stories

Aired March 8, 2003 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, with a threat of a new war with Iraq, a look at four families who are sending loved ones to the frontlines.

SHARON STEPHENS, WIFE: I don't want him to go over there being worried about me and he's not able to concentrate on doing his job.


ANNOUNCER: Gulf War veteran who lost his brother in Desert Storm.


EMMA STEPHENS, MOTHER: The Lord's will will be done and mine is that I'm not losing another son.


ANNOUNCER: A military wife whose husband is fighting the forgotten war in Afghanistan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's days where everything I do and everything I look at is Rick, and I miss him and my heart aches.


ANNOUNCER: An Army generator mechanic who could leave behind her husband and three children.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know this is what I do. I chose to do this. But don't get me wrong. They are still my babies.


ANNOUNCER: A couple whose plans to marry were disrupted by plans for war.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would really like for him to go over in the desert with a ring on his finger.


ANNOUNCER: The human side of going to war now on a special PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAUL ZAHN, HOST: Hi. Welcome to a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. As the threat of war with Iraq rose by the day, more and more American troops are answering the call to duty, a quarter of a million and counting -- fathers, mothers, sons, daughters. Under every helmet, a person with a loved one, a family left behind. Over the next hour, their story, their fears, their resolve amid the largest American military buildup in a decade. Here's Bruce Burkhardt.


STAFF SGT. TIM STEPHENS, U.S. ARMY: Well, I haven't had no choice but to wear those things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thought you was off that day. You wasn't doing no ROTC.

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Sunday near Fort Hood, Texas. Tim Stephens, his wife, and two of his children spend the afternoon with Tim's extended family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you got the whole outfit on, the shirt, the shorts and the socks.

BURKHARDT: It feels like a normal get together, but along with the laughter and the joking, there's an undercurrent of uncertainty. The Stephens are waiting to see if Tim, an Army staff sergeant and Gulf War veteran, will get the call to fight again.

T. STEPHENS: I have no reservations about going. I mean I feel that where I'm at, we're trained. We're ready. If we got to go, we're going to go and we're going to do well.

EMMA STEPHENS: Tim is saying, "It's all right, mom. You know, if it's my time to go, I'm going." I said, "Right, Tim, right." You know, but I keep saying, "Lord, I know you won't take my child. I know you're going to protect my child and send him back home."

BURKHARDT: This mom has a reason to be worried. She already knows the sacrifice of sending a baby off to war. Twelve years ago, four of her boys were sent to the Middle East to fight Iraq. Only three returned.

T. STEPHENS: Out of all of my brothers -- I love them all, but me and Chris were the closest. We had more things in common.

BURKHARDT: Christopher was the fourth of six children born to Emma and Willie Stephens. He was the joker in the family.

ED STEPHENS, BROTHER: Every time we were around, he always got to be the comedian, steal the show, laugh, get all of us laughing.

BURKHARDT: Chris was also a neat freak, something he got teased about.

T. STEPHENS: Uniform wise, he wouldn't put it on if it wasn't starched and pressed and all neat.

EMMA STEPHENS: They would call him Creases because he would have them starched so stiff that you could never open his pockets. And he always had to have the crease up front and in the back.

BURKHARDT: Chris had followed older brothers, Will and Ed, into the Army, with Tim joining later.

ED STEPHENS: Chris never told us that he was going to join the Army. He didn't say, "By the way, I'm going to join the Army too." He like came on in, and we found out from that.

BURKHARDT: Chris served as a cavalry scout in the infantry, a position his family worried about.

WILL STEPHENS, BROTHER: After you've been in the while, they break down life expectancies. And as a scout, I think his life was like three seconds. And that's why we was trying to talk him into taking another M.O., but he never got around to doing it.

BURKHARDT: In 1990, all four were stationed in Germany when they got word they were heading to the Middle East. Chris and his brothers made a series of videos for their families back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm coming back. And when I come back, I'm coming to states. You know I'm coming back because I'm tough. I'm tough. Whatever you got to do, don't forget I love you all very much. You all listen to your daddy (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BURKHARDT: Chris also made another tape for his mother, Emma. This one had a different tone almost as if he sensed he wasn't coming home.

EMMA STEPHENS: He said he loved me and he was proud that I was his mother and he believed he had a good life. And then I said that's nice for someone to be able to sit down and say, if death is coming, I really looked over my life and I had a good life.

W. STEPHENS: After we got back and I listened to it, I was like -- you know and a lot of people started saying he actually sounded like he was doing his last will and testament. I said it really does sound like that too. It's like he had a calling or something that something was going to happen over there.

BURKHARDT: On February 26, 1991, just hours before fighting in the Gulf War ended, Chris's Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by friendly fire.

ED STEPHENS: One of the guys in my unit told me that he heard about a Stephens being killed. You might want to check that out. BURKHARDT: Sergeant Christopher Stephens was dead at the age of 27. He left behind a wife and five children.

T. STEPHENS: I just went out and set out there for maybe five, six hours, just thinking about things that we had done in the past.

EMMA STEPHENS: It hurt so bad. I can't explain the pain. It's like somebody just got a hold of my chest.

W. STEPHENS: I just thought it was kind of hurtful that it happened the last day. I mean, a couple of more hours, and it would have been over with.

BURKHARDT: Despite their brother's death, Will, Ed, and Tim chose to stay in the Army.

T. STEPHENS: I know, if he was alive, he would be like don't you dare. Don't you dare. You raised your hand and swore you'd defend the United States of America, and that's what I want you to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There go you and dad right there.

BURKHARDT: Ed and Will recently retired after more than 22 years of service apiece.

T. STEPHENS: Four and thirty-three halves, that's up to for 60 rounds that's still on there. That makes 150 rounds on that truck.

BURKHARDT: Tim still works as a military transportation specialist.

T. STEPHENS: Charlie 785. I go pick up ammo. I go pick up fuel, and I give it to the tanks so they can go kill people.

BURKHARDT: On Monday, the call the Stephens family had been anticipated finally came. Tim is being deployed to the Persian Gulf region.

T. STEPHENS: We've been waiting all that time to go, and now we got the word to go. We're just going to continue marching on. We're getting our vehicles ready, getting our soldiers ready, our families ready, and we're going to go take care of business.

BURKHARDT: For Tim Stephens, life has changed since the last time he was called upon to fight 12 years ago. Along with a 17-year- old son from a previous relationship, Tim and wife, Sharon, now have two more children, daughter, Katina, and another son named after his uncle.

T. STEPHENS: This is my next to the youngest child. This is Christopher and he's four years old. I don't really want to leave him. I mean I got a five-month-old daughter, and I'll be gone for at least six, maybe a year. And that will be the hardest part for me, and then leaving my wife and my other two sons.

BURKHARDT: Tim says he won't make a videotape of his own when he goes back to the Middle East. He says he's been around his family enough to tell them in person that he loves them.

T. STEPHENS: What I tell my wife is "don't worry about me. You know, you got Katina, Chris, and Tim to look after. If you're worried about me, then you're going to miss something pertaining to them."

S. STEPHENS: For Tim, I don't want him to go over there being worried about me, you know, and he's not able to concentrate on doing his job.

BURKHARDT: It's a job that's also personal for a soldier who lost his brother.

T. STEPHENS: If we remove Saddam, yes, a piece of me will be happy that my brother didn't die in vain.

BURKHARDT: For Emma Stephens, the thought of sending a son back to war is balanced by faith.

EMMA STEPHENS: I do pray. I do believe in miracles. And the Lord's will will be done and mine is that I'm not losing another son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You walk away first.

BURKHARDT: When we return, with her husband fighting a forgotten war, she is helping others cope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those are my wives, do not mess with them. Whatever they need, I'm there.

BURKHARDT: Supporting those left behind ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.



ZAHN: While the showdown with Iraq dominates the headlines, there is another almost forgotten conflict that continues in Afghanistan. Soldiers there said their good-byes last year, and many of them are still on the frontlines, still in harm's way, still far away from home.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Be careful today, honey. I love you too, darling.

BURKHARDT (voice-over): A daily phone call between Janet Cartwright and her husband, Rick, stationed 7,000 miles away. Janet lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a typical Army town, tight knit, proud of its military base, Fort Bragg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go honey.

BURKHARDT: She's a mother and a good Army wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The military wife's just a strong person. We're not intimidated. We're not to be set back. Not to be told we're not -- oh, she's a girl. Come here, you know.

BURKHARDT: Her husband, Rick, has been in the Army for 18 years. A sergeant major with the 20th Engineer Brigade, he shipped out eight months ago to Afghanistan to help clear mines and sweep caves leaving Janet and 12-year-old, Eva, to keep their chins up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss my towels out in the morning, the kiss good-bye, his humor, just what he brings to the family, which is so much. We just rely on him. We count on him.

You call me later, OK? Let me know about practice.


BURKHARDT: Daughter, Eva, also misses Daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss -- he always goes to -- he goes to everything. Even when I was in plays, he would go to that. He would go to all my sports games. He's funny. He just loves me because I'm like his world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have good days and bad days. There's days where everything I do and everything I look at is Rick. And I miss him and my heart aches. It literally hurts. It does. It hurts. And you just -- you want a hug.

BURKHARDT: But the miracle of modern communications sometimes brings relief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wanted to see the photos, the photographs because the mail is so slow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to the VTC. They're fun because you get to see him.


BURKHARDT: Today, Janet and Eva are having a video teleconference with Rick. Eva's friend, Brandon, also came along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like butterflies. I can't wait to talk to him.

We can see you very good. Your hair looks pretty good, honey.

BURKHARDT: And as at home, it is the mundane that binds us. Taken for granted when together, savored when continents separate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She got the bands on her braces changed today. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What color?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What color do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just try to pick with some type of camouflage, you know, move in a nonstandard pattern, take a different route to school every day, confuse the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss your sense of humor at home, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I miss you too, honey. You look nice, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Nice enough for you to come home?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, honey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you too, honey. Take care. You guys have fun today, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll talk to you tomorrow.

BURKHARDT: Janet and Rick's is a love story that began eight years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was building casinos in Las Vegas, and I took a vacation here to Fort Bragg to visit my brother. And I was swimming at the pool, and he was playing tennis and my brother introduced us. And we dated about a year and a half long distance, and then got married.

BURKHARDT: Eva, Janet's daughter from a previous marriage, was on-board early.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He proposed to Mommy, and she said, "On one condition." He was like, "Oh, what?" You know. She was like, "Well, if Eva thinks it's OK that she likes you." And so, she asked me and I was like, yes, he's cool, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got married at the chapel. It was a very quick thing because he was deploying. We got married, and two days later he was gone.

BURKHARDT: The separations are never easy, but made a bit more tolerable by an enduring love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's always thinking about me, thinking about Eva, thinking about the family. And I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's my hero. He is everything that I think a father should be. BURKHARDT: But even the strongest bonds get tested when a soldier's deployment is extended. Rick was originally due back in February, but with another possible war on the horizon, Janet's not sure when he's coming home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just heartbreaking because you're geared up for it. You know he's coming home. You're thinking what you're going to do and how you're going to do it and then the rug's pulled right out from underneath you. So you cry, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go on again.

She's sleeping.

BURKHARDT: One way Janet copes is to use her experience to support other military wives on base.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three smile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FRG's the Family Readiness Group. It's the Army's program to take care of the wives. We meet once a month, and you just kind of help out everybody, give them the information they need to put them on their feet.

I just wanted to talk a little bit about -- just to reemphasize the deployment issues.

BURKHARDT: The group is busy now with constant departures and preparation for war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those of you that your husbands are not deployed, please be thinking about wills, power of attorneys, the bills. If you don't do the bills, you need to get used to it and know what's going on.

And I tend to call them my wives because, when they're deployed, those are my wives. Do not mess with them. Whatever they need, I'm there. Now, is this your only one?

BURKHARDT: Sometimes support means breaking bad news to the mother of a sick baby, who's hoping her husband could come home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's probably going to end up having surgery on her brain. It may bring him back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't want to discourage you from that, but I'm going to tell you right now, it's a time of war and reality is unless there is a death in the immediate family, babies are being born without their parents here. And that's the hard, cold reality, which is awful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But truly, his daughter -- I mean, brain surgery. Come on. Maybe. We'll see.

BURKHARDT: Janet's work is not always easy.



BURKHARDT: Lisa Yenter's (ph) husband is also midway through a long deployment in Afghanistan. Together, they nurture these wives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you've been through a lot already, but you're tough. How is your day?

BURKHARDT: But they also nurture each other. And some nights the best tonic is just a night out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is so enthusiastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're the battle buddies.

BURKHARDT: The pals created the A-Team, a spirited club for wives whose husbands are currently in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have this wonderful thing called the Calgon Awards. We talk about, oh, gosh, this went wrong, and this went wrong, and this went wrong. And the person who has the worst story gets the Calgon vote. Calgon, take me away.

BURKHARDT: It's a moment of fun that helps the battle buddies stick it out.

In July, it will be a year of waiting. As for Eva, she seems to have taken a page from mom's book and has learned a thing or two about support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's my baby. She -- she's just everything. She helps me. She's my best friend. She's -- she'll come in when I'm having a bad day, and she'll go, "I miss Daddy too." She'll give me this big hug, and she'll go, "Remember when Daddy did this? Let's talk about Daddy. Let's talk about him, Mom. It'll make us feel better." So that helps a lot.

BURKHARDT: A good Army wife. Part of that is living with the possibility that he may never come home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The type of soldier he is, he would do that. He would do the ultimate sacrifice. And every day I would just pray to God that the memories would stay fresh, but I would be very proud of him.

BURKHARDT: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, a mother of three prepares to leave her family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are always ever ready. We are. But to really actually say war, that's hard.

BURKHARDT: How this military mom is getting ready for her latest deployment when we return.




ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Traditionally, it was men who went off to war and women who stayed behind. But as female soldiers play an ever-increasing war in today's military, it is their husbands who are keeping the home fires burning. Here again is Bruce Burkhardt.


BURKHARDT (voice-over): Sergeant Angela Miller is packing her bags and preparing for war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a generator mechanic of 52 Delta, and I service generators. So you're talking about hundreds of thousands of soldiers counting on us to give them their power.

BURKHARDT: Her unit's vehicles are gone. The equipment she normally works on, packed up and set off, headed somewhere to the Middle East. Angela Miller is waiting to see when she'll do the same.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're still in deploy status. We're still constantly preparing to go to war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day at school, all right?


BURKHARDT: At the Millers' home, a different sort of preparation is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's cold outside.

BURKHARDT: Robert, Angela's husband, is getting their three children ready for school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a school day, I get them up early. We walk to school. I come back home, and, you know, I get to start with my chores, whatever my chores may be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our relationship is always a lot of give and take. With this, it's a lot of take so he has to adjust to that.

BURKHARDT: Angela and Robert have been an Army family for more than seven years now, a decision they made together. They were newlyweds with a seven-month-old son when Angela left her job as a nursing assistant to join the military. It gave her the chance to both work and get an education.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be able to walk away, that kind of mother bond wouldn't be there, I was kind of apprehensive of that, but Robert was very supportive. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess you have to weigh the pros and the cons of each situation. The job that she had wasn't paying enough, and she felt that the Army could give her more and so she took on the challenge.

BURKHARDT: It was a challenge for Robert as well. He left his job as a store detective to take on added responsibilities around the home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your backpack with your homework in it too. I wasn't used to not working. I wasn't used to changing diapers. A part of caring was something I always did love doing, but it magnified.

BURKHARDT: Robert still works as a part-time musician, but only when his schedule fits with Angela's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I have to hear that I can't go, it doesn't take too good. But, you know, I do understand these situations at hand. So she's like the breadwinner. So I'm like -- I'm taking a backseat to it.

BURKHARDT: When Angela is deployed on assignment, being Mr. Mom becomes a full-time job. They've been through this before. In 1999, Angela was stationed in Korea for more than a year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what I do. I chose to do this, but don't get me wrong, they are still my babies, and I'm still a mom. So that feeling right there is like kind of heart wrenching.

BURKHARDT: Back then; Robert took the family to Michigan, where they stayed with relatives. He needed the help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To feed them the baby food. You know, it was quite an experience for me, something, of course, I had never experienced like that before, you know, to do it 24/7.

BURKHARDT: It was an adjustment for the Millers' three children as well, especially dinnertime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He goes take the bath.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does the cooking. He didn't cook it all the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He never cooks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't know our favorite food. So most of the time we had to go out to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we had to go out to eat.

BURKHARDT: While Angela was in Korea, the Millers worked to keep her an everyday part of the family through letters and pictures. Christmas was videotaped so Mom could see it half a world away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas, Mommy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really wanted to be there. So in essence, I still was because I could see them opening gifts and know that they know that Mommy sent them something, you know, still thinking about them. So I was very, very heartfelt that he did that for me.

BURKHARDT: But a year away from the children had its price, a mother-child reunion was bittersweet. Familiarity gone, fear took its place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When she came home, my children, two of them, stood behind me because they saw the pictures, but when they literally saw her, it was like it was different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very hurtful because you expect them to still be the same, but their little minds doesn't process the fact that you've been gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to step in there and to assure the children that it's OK, it's Mom, you know, so it was hard.

BURKHARDT: The children, now ages 8, 6, and 4, have been told their mother may have to leave again.

(on camera): Are you guys going to miss your mom?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because she's going to go to war and she may not come back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She may not come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she may not come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: War? No, I don't want her to go. No, I don't, but that's her job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are always ever ready. We are. But to really actually say war, that's hard.

BURKHARDT: Hard and confusing, especially if you're a child.

(on camera): Does that worry you that she might not come back?








UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dominick understands, but the other two, DeAngelo (ph) and Devin (ph), they don't quite understand. They will tell you they'll feel bad or sad that Mommy's going to war, but they still don't understand the magnitude.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you start your homework yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: yes, we got it finished already.

BURKHARDT (voice-over): For now, the goal around the Miller household is to keep things as normal as possible. Drawings and schoolwork go up on the walls. Mom and Dad make dinner together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Run upstairs and watch the cartoons, and I'll call you down when it's ready, OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, every day is precious due to the fact that we don't know what's to come.

BURKHARDT: The bags sit packed by the door, waiting for the call that will take them and a mother of three away. Angela Miller already knows how she'll say good-bye. Her message to her children will be simple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy will be back. Mommy will be back. Yes.


BURKHARDT: The words to Robert will keep peace on the home-front while she goes off to fight -- will also be brief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More or less, I love him in every aspect that love is. He gives me all the support and encouragement in everything that I do. I just love him because he loves me back.

BURKHARDT: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, a military couple whose new life together is put on hold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to be cheated out of a life with this man. That is what I'm afraid of. (END VIDEOTAPE)


ZAHN: From San Diego to Georgia, servicemen and women are getting their orders, uprooting their lives, and shipping out. But for one couple in particular, deployment could not get in the way of destiny.


BURKHARDT (voice-over): For the men and women of the 277th Maintenance Company of the Georgia National Guard...


BURKHARDT: ... civilian life has come to a grinding halt. Today they're being mobilized for deployment to the Persian Gulf. Family and friends have come to bid fair well, including the fiancee of their commander, Captain Bobby Brookshire. Like thousands of others, she's saying good-bye. But unlike thousands of others, she has been there, been to war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know what he's going through. I know the training. I know the routes. I've been to the country he possibly is going to.

BURKHARDT: If ever a couple seemed to be meant for each other, Dawn Sharp and Bobby Brookshire are it. They first met back in the early 90s when both were students, cadets, at North Georgia College, a small military school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This guy came through the day room there in the dormitory at North Georgia, and he said, "We're going to climb up a water tower, do you want to go?"

BURKHARDT: That guy was Bobby Brookshire, a big fellow known for his rambunctious ways. Before coming to school, he'd already done three years as a sailor in the Navy, serving in the Persian Gulf during the last war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we went and climbed the water tower there in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), up on one of the mountaintops, and stayed there for the longest time. And you could almost write a country song about that.

BURKHARDT: But that water tower was the end of it. They went their separate ways after that, both pursuing careers in the military. Like Bobby, Dawn also served in the last Gulf War in a medical unit giving shots to soldiers and POWs, a young private who suddenly found herself in the desert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought I had landed on the moon. I was brand new to the military.

BURKHARDT: After the war, it was back to North Georgia College to resume her military education. Eventually, a commissioned officer in the Army, she became a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. Bobby, meanwhile, was rising as an officer in the Army's Transportation Corps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my welding shop, my scenic shop. We call it the Bat Mobile. That's the canvas shop. That's a rolling sewing shop on wheels. We have one sewing machine in there that is almost as big as a pool table. This is a Himit (ph) wrecker, made by the Oshkosh Company, same people that make overalls for little kids.

BURKHARDT: And it was back when Bobby was in overalls that he first dreamed of being in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever since, I guess, at least 10 years of age, I've always known that I wanted to serve in the military.

MARY BROOKSHIRE, MOTHER: He's patriotic. He's always been, "Mama, I'll take care of you. If we have a war, I'll take care of you, Mama."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel it's an obligation I have to my country. There's a lot of people before -- starting way before the Revolutionary War that have given their life. I'm grateful for that, and that's my calling in life. It's just my time to pay that part of the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain Brookshire, post.

BURKHARDT: If the military was a calling, then something else was calling as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, sir.

BURKHARDT: About a year and a half ago, the old college classmates, Bobby and Dawn, reconnected. Both were now officers in the National Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was as attractive as ever as I can remember. Her hair was a lot shorter. She's still strong-willed and head strong and determined, which was equally impressive to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very first e-mail that he sent to me, very professional. Hey, Dawn, I remember you from college, and I can't believe you're back in North Georgia recruiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A congratulatory message.


BURKHARDT: Not only after, the two fell in love and decided to get married. Plans were in the works, then other plans intervened, war plans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a house together. We trust each other. I love you, and you love me, and we both know that, so we don't need a wedding to solidify that. And he said OK.

BURKHARDT: And that was the way Captain Bobby Brookshire thought it would be, war, then marriage. Well, then Dawn got to thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain Sharp (ph), can you assist me up here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then he called Captain Sharp (ph) forward, and I got nervous. Why is this woman coming up here in front of my formation with me?

LT. COL. JOHN OWINGS, CHAPLAIN, U.S. ARMY: Dawn came to the office a couple days before that, and she said, "Chaplain," she said, "I just can't let him go off and not be a hitched man." Those were her words, "hitched man."

And so, we've done something for you here today that you're going to remember for as long as you live.

And I asked her, I said, "You're not going to let him know, are you?" And she said, "I don't want him to know." I said, "You're going to knock him off his feet."

I'm about to witness with all of you a woman knocking a man off his feet. Will you take this man to be your husband?


OWINGS: That was a very weak "I will."


BURKHARDT: It is life accelerated. War does that.

OWINGS: I just wonder if our nation realizes at some time you sacrifice the greatest thing you have, and that is your time with people you love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was extremely proud that I was standing there in front of my troops and that the woman I love had decided that this was the point in time that we would get married.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What say you to 277?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would really like for him to go over in the desert with a ring on his finger so he could look down on his hand and think, hey, there's a girl back in Georgia waiting for me.

BURKHARDT: Three hours later, the newly married couple had to say good-bye. Bobby and company hit the road to Fort Benning, there to await further orders, knowing only they'll be headed to the Persian Gulf region any day now, but without knowing exactly when or where. Dawn did get one more chance to see Bobby. When we visited with them at Fort Benning, she came along, six days after their impromptu wedding. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know he'll come back home, but I don't want to be cheated out of a life with this man. That is what I'm afraid of.

M. BROOKSHIRE: I worry. I always worry and I don't want things to happen to my children. But I just want him to be very careful and come home.

BURKHARDT: Coming home -- what a wonderful scene it will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scene that I want to see is 193 people greeting their families, and my guys will be in front of them. And they'll see their families first, and then I'll know that she'll be standing there by herself, and then I'll see her.


ANNOUNCER: PEOPLE IN THE NEWS will continue in a moment.



ZAHN: We have seen them leaving for months by boat, by plane, under cover of darkness, and in broad daylight. Every branch of the service has been called up for a possible fight. There have been stiff upper lips and plenty of tears. So as we say good-bye, one last look at America's military families as they say farewell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tell him that I love him and to keep him safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love him. I care for him, and that I want to return to them as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope that all of them will come back safe and well. I miss you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never know what's going to happen. Something could happen. Even though you don't want it to, something could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out there doing our jobs and doing what's important for the country, for the world, for our families. That's what we're looking to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't worry. I'll be back.



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