Like so many family members and friends on the Kenai Peninsula, Margie Westmoreland of Kenai is holding her breath for news of one local soldier.
Her son, Garth Corner, is a platoon sergeant with the 54th Engineer Battalion and is in charge of 26 soldiers. He and his platoon members are combat engineers, specializing in demolitions, meaning they look for and remove anti-personnel mines and use dynamite to blow up enemy weapons caches.
It's a job Garth has plenty of experience with. In addition to his recent service in Iraq, the 1989 Nikiski Middle-Senior High School graduate also is a veteran of Desert Storm, where he served with the 27th Engineer Battalion, supporting the 24th Mechanized Infantry. He also served in Bosnia in 1999, removing hundreds of anti-personnel mines, according to Margie.
Still, as a mom, Margie is concerned for her son, and Garth knows it.
"Everything is fine here, please don't worry," he wrote in an e-mail home Feb. 8. "I have a great platoon of 26 guys; we all watch each others' back, and we have the best equipment and training. ...
"I will come back fine with all my fingers and toes."
On March 2, he sent a more detailed letter to his mom though it took some time to arrive.
"Not much has changed over here in Kuwait," he wrote. "We are as ready as we can get for combat without actually loading bullets into our weapons. I guess now it's all up to the president. ... Our company is still attached to the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga. Remember that if the fighting starts and you are looking for news on TV or in the paper. We will be playing a lead role in kicking Saddam's ass. ...
"Don't worry if you don't hear from me for a little while after this letter. That probably means we have gone in and we are getting the job over with. ... I will be safe and sound with a whole bunch of tanks around and helicopters covering the air."
As it turned out, that was the last Margie heard from Garth for more than a month. Finally, Garth was able to send e-mails again on April 15 and 16.
Luckily, she said, Garth is doing well. He crossed the border into Iraq with the 3rd Infantry, 7th Calvary Division on March 21, and engaged in some fire fights, according to his e-mail. Now, his platoon is guarding a power station just outside Baghdad.
"He's doing good," Margie said. "They had a chance to eat real food, and they have hot water and electricity.
"All the combat stuff has cooled off for a while."
Margie said she's finally doing well, too.
"I'm doing a lot better now," she said. "We hadn't heard from him in about five weeks, and I was starting to get nervous."
Margie's experience is not unlike that of dozens of other parents on the peninsula. More than 50 men and women with family in the area are serving in the military some in Iraq and Afghanistan, others around the world waiting for the day they are called to combat.
The following is a list of names and other information on area soldiers sent to the Clarion by their family and friends. A spokesperson for the U.S. Army has asked that addresses not be published. However, several families said they will provide addresses, and many of the soldiers can be contacted through the city of Soldotna's Red, White and Blue program available online at www.ci.soldotna.ak.us.
n Spc. Joshua Arledge is a member of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Benning, Ga., where he makes a home with his wife, Alli. He currently is serving in Iraq. He attended school in Sterling and Soldotna and is the son of Laquita and Mark Jonas of Soldotna and Tim Arledge of Anchorage. His grandparents are T.A. and Brenda Arledge.
n Staff Sgt. Robert A. Bischoff is serving in the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. His home base is Fort Bragg, N.C., where his wife, Billie, and daughters, Courtney and Caitlin, live. He is the son of Bob and Sarah Bischoff of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He also is the brother of Sandra Jones, Bobby Case and Billy Case, all of Kenai, and the uncle of Chris Jones of Kenai, Adam Taylor of Kenai and Heidi Sheldon of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Heidi's husband, Billy Sheldon, also is in Iraq, serving as a chemical specialist. Both are graduates of Kenai Central High School.
n Stewart Blakeslee is in the Navy, stationed on the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. He is a 2000 graduate of Soldotna High School, where he played football and sang in the choir. His parents, Dick and Jane Blakeslee of Soldotna, are retired Navy personnel.
n Shannon T. Bookey Jr., a 1998 graduate of Nikiski High School, is serving in the Navy aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. He is the son of Margie and Shannon Bookey.
n Sgt. Richard L. Boone is a 1997 graduate of Soldotna High School. He and his wife, Lisa Cockroft, have three children: Lilah, 5, Nathan, 2, and Timothy, 1. The Boones are stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas.
n Peter Boraas, the son of Kenai Peninsula College professor Alan Boraas, is a 1999 Skyview High School graduate serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment.
n Spc. Kristen Braud, 23, is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Unit currently serving in Iraq. She joined the reserves to "serve her country and further her education," wrote her mother.
She is the daughter of Darlene Ross of Soldotna, sister of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School students Sara and Hunter Williams and aunt of Joshua Braud Jr. of Soldotna. Though Kristen graduated from high school in Pennsylvania, her mom wrote that she has visited family on the Kenai Peninsula frequently.
n Spc. Eric Brenegan, a graduate of Nikiski High School, is serving with the 82nd Airborne Division Rangers.
n Jacinda Broussard of Nikiski is a Marine serving in Kuwait. She is the daughter of Ernest Broussard of Nikiski and niece of John Broussard.
n Pfc. Kyle Caffroy of Anchor Point is serving on the front lines in Iraq. He is 19.
n Ross W. Carlson, the son of Bill and Coyleen Carlson, is serving with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division stationed in South Korea.
n Gabriel M. Clement, 22, is a communications specialist with the U.S. Navy and is serving in Iraq. He is the son of Justin and Siobian Clement of Sterling and a graduate of the Academy of Higher Learning.
n Shane C. Clinton is an E-4 Corpsman with the U.S. Navy. He has been assigned to active duty in Okinawa, Japan, since Nov. 11, 2000. He is the son of Patrick Clinton of Soldotna.
n Jason R. Cockroft, a 1998 graduate of Soldotna High School, is serving in the U.S. Air Force. He is the son of Richard and Linda Cockroft and sister of Lisa Boone, all of Soldotna.
n Garth Corner, the son of Greg and Alicia Corner of Kasilof, is serving in the Army and stationed in Camp Virginia in Kuwait.
n Ben Cox, 21, is in North Carolina training for U.S. Army combat in Iraq. He is the son of Sandra Cox and a 2000 graduate of the Academy of Higher Learning in Sterling.
n Staff Sgt. Kevin Cox has been a member of the U.S. Army's 21st Chemical Division of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. He currently is stationed in Okinawa, where he lives with his wife and two children. He recently was assigned to temporary duty in the Philippines, where he will spend the next few months. He is a 1995 graduate of Kenai Central High School.
n Spc. Jerrard M. Dalton of Soldotna is serving with the Army special forces. He is the son of Raymond and Jackie Wise of Soldotna.
n Spc. James A. Dillon, a 23-year-old Soldotna High School graduate, is enlisted in the U.S. Army as a satellite systems operator. He has been stationed in Korea since October. His father, Lewis Dillon, is retired from teh Army and from Spring Creek Correctional Center. His mother, Linda Dillon, is a certified nursing assistant in home health. His brother, Victor Dillon, also a SoHi graduate, works in the Ford Service Department, and his step-brother, Kevin Dillon, is a corrections officer at Spring Creek.
n Lance Cpl. Dustin Dreifuerst, an 18-year-old Skyview High School graduate, is serving with the 3rd Marine Division in Kuwait. He is the son of Richard and Mary Dreifuerst of Cooper Landing and has a sister and many friends attending Skyview. He also is an Eagle Scout.
n Jesse Dukowitz, a 2001 graduate of Skyview High School, recently was promoted to the rank of lance corporal with the U.S. Marine Corps' 10th Marine Regiment stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He is the son of Keith and Patricia Dukowitz of Soldotna.
n Sgt. Clarence S. Duncan III, a 1988 graduate of Soldotna High School, is a Multi-Launch Rocket System (MLRS) instructor at Fort Sill, Okla. He is the son of Clarence and Lois Duncan III of Kenai.
n Sgt. Patrick Espy is serving with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. He is the son of Roy and Janine Espy of Kenai. Janine is the executive director of Love INC of the Kenai Peninsula, and Roy works for Halliburton Services in Norway. He has a brother, Rory, and sisters, Stacey and Belinda. He is a 1999 graduate of Kenai Central High School.
n Nicholas A. Evans is a recruit who recently graduated from the Alaska Military Youth Academy after attending Soldotna High School, where he participated in football and wrestling. His parents are Mark and Karen Evans of Soldotna.
n SN Gary A. Fisher departed Alaska in March 17 to an undisclosed location abroad. He is the brother of Greg Fisher, an intensive needs aide at Soldotna High School and uncle of Courtney Fisher at Kenai Middle School, Chyna Fisher at Mountain View Elementary School and Acacia Fisher at Sears Elementary School.
n Anna Floyd, a 2002 graduate of Nikiski High School, is serving in the Air Force and stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
n Pfc. Neil Fucci, a 2002 graduate of Nikiski High School, graduated from military police school at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., last month and is based at the Marine Coprs Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., with his wife, Zara.
n Cadet Vance Gaddis is a Skyview High School graduate.
n Joshua George, 22, of Ninilchik, is a Marine in the infantry weapons platoon stationed in Kuwait City, Kuwait. He is the son Mary Clock of Ninilchik and Buck George of Kasilof and the stepson of Barbara George of Kasilof.
n Capt. Justin M. Gordon of Soldotna is stationed with the 11th Attach Helicopter Regiment in Kuwait. The son of Tom Gordon and Karen Tautfest-Gordon, Justin was born in Soldotna in 1977 and graduated as one of eight valedictorians at Skyview High School in 1995. He attended West Point Military Academy, where he graduated in 1999 as a 2nd Lieutenant. He then was sent to Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla., where he chose field artillery and multiple launch rocket systems as his specialty. He is stationed in Kuwait with the 11th Attach Helicopter Regiment. His grandparents are Eugene and Joyce Tautfest and Eunice and Roy Gordon. He also is the brother of Lyndsay and Aaron Gordon.
n Sgt. Devin W. Gschwend is serving in the U.S. Army in South Korea. His wife, Kelly G. Gschwend a 1991 Kenai Central High School graduate and their two daughters are living in Kenai with Kelly's parents, Vern and Grace Shook.
n Sgt. James C. Haddox, a 1997 graduate of Skyview High School, is member of the Army Infantry, currently stationed at Fort Wainwright after training in Japan and Louisiana. He previously served a tour in Italy. His wife is Nina Timblin Haddox, also a Skyview graduate. His mother is Ann Haddox.
n Jarod Hanke, the son of Kelly Hanke, is a Marine serving in Iraq.
n Scott C. Hardy, a 1987 graduate of Soldotna High School, is serving in the U.S. navy aboard the carrier USS Carl Vinson in the west Pacific. In 1991, he served in the Persian Gulf aboard the carriers Nimitz, and he was on the Vinson during the attack on terrorists in Afghanistan. His wife, Pamela, and three children live in Bremerton, Wash. He is the son of Joe and Billie Hardy of Soldotna, the grandson of JoAn Buzzell of Kenai and the brother of Shanon Hamrick of Soldotna.
n Aman S. Gail Hightower is a 2001 Skyview High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy. She recently returned from Saudi Arabia and is stationed at Oak Harbor-Whidbey Island, Wash., where she is an aircraft structural mechanic with the Gray Wolves of the 142nd Squadron. She was born in Soldotna and is the daughter of Monti and Will Hightower.
n Levi Hollers, a 1999 graduate of Skyview High School, is stationed with the Army at Fort Hood, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Kristi. They are expecting their first child in April. Levi is the son of Loren and Dianna Hollers of Soldotna.
n Shad Houser is a 1993 graduate of Skyview High School, where he was a wrestler. He also is a graduate of Manchester College, where he received a pre-med degree. He joined the Army for further medical training and is stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas. He is scheduled to be deployed to Kuwait soon. His parents are Neil and Cindy Houser of Soldotna. He also has four siblings, Amy, Adam, Shawn and Charise. He and his wife, Marie, are expecting their first baby any day now.
n Spc. Ross Jackson, the fiance of 2002 Skyview High School graduate Angel Hollers, is serving in the Army and stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash.
n Amie Joy, a 2000 Skyview High School graduate, is serving in the Navy. She is stationed in the Persian Gulf with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier out of Bremerton, Wash.
n Sr. Airman Jason L. Kassik, an AC-130 aircraft engine mecanic out of Hurlbert Field is currently stationed overseas. He is a 1998 Nikiski High School graduate and the son of Frank and Debara Kassik.
n Johnathan R. Kassik is a 2nd class aviation electrician stationed with the Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron VQ-2 in Rota, Spain. He graduated from Nikiski High School in 1997 and is the son of Frank and Debara Kassik.
n SN Richard Knutson, son of Caroll Knutson and grandson of long-time Kasilof resident Marjorie Madden, is serving aboard the USS Iwo Jima LHD-7 at an undisclosed location in the Middle East.
n Lance Cpl. Mike Lasky, a 2002 graduate of Kenai Alternative High School, is assigned to the Marine Corps' 4th Reconnaissance Battalion. He is the son of Donn and Carol Lasky of Soldotna and the brother of Donn Lasky Jr. of Marysville, Wash., and Cori Lund of Portland, Ore.
n Sgt. Matthew D. Lundell of Sterling currently is stationed in Germany with his wife, Jodi M. Lundell, and their two children, Logan and Bailey. Sgt. Lundell's father and stepmother, Dale and Tamara Lundell, live in Sterling, as do Jodi Lundell's parents, Terry and Toni Smith.
n Cpl. Calvin Lundy is a Nikiski High School graduate serving in the Marine Corps.
n Army Pvt. Robert W. Nichols, an 18-year-old communications signal support specialist, was deployed to Kuwait on April 8 with the 101st Airborne-Airstrike Division. He joined the Army at age 17, and will turn 19 on Aug. 13.
Nichols is the son of Billy Nichols of Kenai, as well as Lisa Jackson and her husband, Steve, of Great Falls, Mont. His grandparents are Bob and Millie Evans of Soldotna, JoAnn Mashburn of Merkel, Texas, and Ken and Annette Jackson of Great Falls.
n Sgt. Nathan C. Mallette is a U.S. Army sniper serving with the 10th Mounted Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y. He is a 2000 graduate of Skyview High School and the son of Doug and Holly Mallette of Soldotna. He also has a brother, Sean, at Skyview, a brother, Bradley, at Soldotna Middle School, and a sister, Kristy, at Tustumena Elementary School.
n Pvt. Daniel Martin of Soldotna is serving as an armored cavalry scout in the U.S. Army. He is stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., and scheduled to be shipped to Germany in May. He is a 2000 graduate of Skyview High School and the son of George and Francie Martin of Soldotna.
n Spc. Joshua (Kyle) Mason is a tank gunner stationed in Korea with the 2nd Tank Battalion. He is the son of Dan and Lori Mason of Soldotna.
n Tucker (T.J.) Mattox, the son of Rod and Leila Mattox of Kasilof, is stated with the Navy at Fort Lejuene, N.C., where he lives with his wife, Amy, and their 18-month-old son, Parker Jay. His siblings are Christy, Alisa and Ben.
n George A. McMichael Jr., 19, is a combat engineer with the U.S. Army and currently is serving in Kosovo on a peace mission while awaiting orders to Iraq. He is the son of George and Sandy McMichael of Sterling and a 2002 graduate of the Academy of Higher Learning.
n Sierra Mello is stationed with the U.S. Army's 141st Signal Battalion, 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden, Germany. She is the daughter of Debbie and Gordon Griffin of Soldotna and Rodger Mello of Arvin, Calif. She graduated from Soldotna High School in 2001.
n Michael Misner, a 2001 Skyview High School graduate, is serving in the Navy aboard the USS Enterprise. He is the son of Scott and Nancianna Misner of Soldotna, brother of Joe and Zack Misner, and husband of Julie Misner.
n Zachary Morse, the son of Chuck and Cheryl Morse of Kasilof, is in the Navy, stationed on the USS Providence. He is a graduate of Skyview High School.
n Capt. Larry Porter, a 1988 graduate of Kenai Central High School, is serving as a public affairs officer in Seoul, Korea, and will be transferred to Vicenze, Italy, in May. He is the son of Larry and Pat Porter of Kenai.
n Roland N. Rea of Sterling is an E-4 in the 3rd Infantry 2-69 Armor Tank Division of the Army. He drives an Abram tank. According to an April 2 story in the Wall Street Journal, the 2-69 was "leading the invasion across the Kuwait border, and has been the tip of the spear ever since."
Rea's family includes parents, Jeff and Barb Rea; siblings Shelby and Katie Rea; and grandparents, Jerry and Pat Holland, all of Sterling.
n Cpl. Todd H. Reynolds is a member of the 101st Marine Unit stationed at Mira Mar Naval Base in San Diego. He specializes in aviation odnance. He is the son of law of Maryjane Sipes of Nikiski and Marvin Sipes of Manteca, Calif., and the grandson of Jane Simons of Kasilof. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have a 2 1/2-year-old son.
n Michael Rosser, a Skyview High School graduate who enjoys computers and four-wheeling, is serving in the Navy aboard to USS Vincennes in Yokosuka, Japan. His parents are Steve and Diane Webb of Soldotna and Tom Rosser of Seattle. He also has a brother, Carl.
n Airman 1st Class Aaron Russell, a 1998 graduate of Nikiski High School, is stationed with his wife, Heather, at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. He is assigned to the 2nd Maintenance Squadron. He is the son of Steven and Pamela Russell and brother of Nicholas Russell, all of Nikiski.
n Benjamin Ruzicka of Anchor Point is an Army calvary scout stationed in Louisiana and scheduled to be deployed to southwest Asia next month. He is the son of Doug and Debbie Ruzicka of Anchor Point.
n Cpl. Tyler Sahlin, a 1999 graduate of Ninilchik School is serving with the Marine Corps' 24th MEU in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is the son of Don and Mona Anderson. He and his wife, Marlene, have three daughters.
n Pvt. Scott Robert Sausedo of Soldotna is a member of the U.S. Army trained to drive a M1A1 tank. He was born in Soldotna, attended Sterling Elementary School and Soldotna Middle School and completed a home-school program. He is the grandson of Carl and Lynn Wetzel of Kenai.
n Jeremy Shedd is serving in the Navy aboard the USS Deyo in the Red Sea. He is a 2001 graduate of Military Youth Corps at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. He is the son of Terry and Krystal Shedd and brother of Kris Shedd, all of Soldotna.
n Pvt. William Sheldon, a 20-year-old Kenai Central High School graduate, is stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, with his wife, Heidi. He is a chemical specialist and is due to deploy this week to Iraq. He is the son of Dan and Cindie Patton of Kenai and retired Master Chief William and Cheryl Sheldon of Texas.
n Jon Smith is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USNS Niagara Falls somewhere in the Persian Gulf. He is a 1998 graduate of Soldotna High School and the son of Scott and Lucki Smith of Soldotna. His sister, Haley, is a senior at SoHi.
n Lance Cpl. Mac Smitham, a 21-year-old Nikiski High School graduate, is serving in the Marines and specializes in satellite communications. He has been stationed in Japan for the last two years but currently is serving in the Middle East. His mother is Shannon Spoonts and his stepfather is Kelly Spoonts, both of Nikiski.
n Cpl. Nolan Steward is a 1999 Soldotna High School graduate based with the Marine Corps in Yuma, Ariz., where he lives with his wife, 2000 SoHi graduate Amie Johnson, and their two daughters, Cecilia, 2, and Mia, 10 months. His mother, Angie Jenkins, is an advocate at the Women's Resource and Crisis Center in Soldotna.
n Lance Cpl. Jack Stolz of Nikiski is stationed with the Marine Corps in southern Kuwait. He is a 2000 graduate of Nikiski High School and the son of Johnnie and Judith Stolz.
n Derek J. Stoner, a 1999 graduate of Nikiski High School, is serving as an avionics technician on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf. His parents are Chuck and Kathy Grimm of Nikiski.
n Lance Cpl. Mikhail Vaissenberg is the son of a Russian language teacher at Skyview and Soldotna high schools.
n Erik Tucker-Winter, a 1999 graduate of Ninilchik, is stationed with the Army's 40th Signal Battalion in Kuwait. He is a microwave systems operator and maintainer, responsible for configuring and maintaining microwave communications, technical control equipment, circuits and links and restoring telecommunications circuitry. His parents are Lyle and Theresa Winter of Ninilchik.
n Shane Webster, a 22-year-old Soldotna High School graduate, is stationed in Kuwait with the Marines. He is the son of Jeff Webster of Soldotna.
n Dustin T. Werings, a 1998 graduate of Skyview High School, is serving in an undisclosed location in the Middle East. He is the father of Chase Tyler Werings. His mother, Sylvia Dalebout, is a former Ninilchik and Sterling resident living in Oregon. His father, Dale Werings, lives in Sterling, his grandmother, Jane Simons, lives in Kasilof, and his grandfather Mark Jonas lives in Soldotna. He also is the nephew of Maryjane Sepes of Nikiski.
n John M. White, 21, the son of Rick and Connie White, is undergoing training in Kentucky as a scout in the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Training Brigade. He is a 2000 graduate of the Academy of Higher Learning.
n Keith R. White, 25, is serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. He is the son of Rick and Connie White and a 1996 graduate of the Academy of Higher Learning.
n Ens. David Wohlers is serving as an engineering officer in training aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast in Astoria, Ore. He is the son of Jim and Anne Wohlers of Kenai.
n Courtney Wolf, daughter of Kenai Middle School custodian Bruce Wolf, is a 2002 Kenai Central High School graduate serving in the Air Force.
n Mikhail Woltering is assigned to the 52nd Communications Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. He is a 2001 graduate of Soldotna High School. His wife, Karli Kay, lives in Soldotna, and his parents, Mike and Amy Woltering, are former Soldotna residents.
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