County connections

Threat of war brings soldiers, families together

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— Steamboat Springs resident Denise Carhartt watches Dan Rather every night on the "CBS Evening News"; at work, she keeps the radio playing.

It is the best she can do to stay attuned to what is happening in Iraq and what might happen to her son, Benjamin Blocker, who is stationed 10 miles from the Iraqi border.

Blocker, 21, is with the Army infantry and has been in Kuwait since October. He is supposed to be released from the Army in May, but Carhartt doubts that will happen with war pending.

"I never liked war, but I like it less with a son there," Carhartt said.

Carhartt, who works at the Department of Motor Vehicles, said she writes to her son about once a week and keeps his letters posted by her desk at work.

In his letters, Ben writes that the group is training a lot. He drives a Bradley gunner, a kind of tank, the enormous size of which Carhartt said she didn't appreciate until she saw one on the news the other night.

As for the pending war, it's a constant worry for Carhartt.

"It just doesn't seem worth it to put all those lives on the line. It's in my prayers constantly," Carhartt said. "I'm sustained in prayer. But you can't drown in fear. It can't do him any good, or me."

Others who have children in the Persian Gulf share Carhartt's concerns. Tammy and Rodney Estes' son is in Qatar, which boarders Saudi Arabia. Casey Estes, a graduate of Soroco High School, is a firefighter on an airstrip.

Tammy Estes said her son arrived in Qatar in September and was scheduled to leave at the end of February. Right now, the Estes are just hoping that war with Iraq doesn't begin until the 21-year-old returns to Japan.

Casey's job is to protect the planes when they fly onto the airstrip. He communicates with his family through e-mails and calls about once a week, and because of that, Estes knows her son works out in his spare time and is stationed with a great group of guys.

When Casey first arrived to Qatar, Estes said, his base was a "city of tents" in a place where the temperatures would get as high as 120 degrees.

For two years, Casey had been stationed in Japan but was sent to Qatar for his required six months of desert training during his four-year enlistment.

"We are really anxious for him to go back to Japan. We hope and pray it is before (President Bush) does anything," Estes said.

Annie Knotts' son, Caleb Williams, is another Soroco grad in the military. The 22-year-old Marine is stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Williams has been in the Army for three and a half years and was supposed to be finished this July. But Knotts said that looks unlikely.

As part of the Marine infantry, and with most of his training in the desert, Knotts said her son has a good chance of getting sent to the Persian Gulf.

"I know he wants to be there. He wanted to be a Marine all his life," Knotts said.

Nearing the end of his enlistment, he has already signed up for another four years as a reservist.

Jamie Dietrich Thompson, 21, is stationed at North Fork as a jet engine mechanic. Her husband, Gary Thompson, is heading toward the Persian Gulf in a ship. Jamie Thompson is the daughter of Trent and Kathy Dietrich and graduated from Steamboat Springs High School.

Trent Dietrich said the two were stationed on a ship in the Persian Gulf after Sept. 11. Their ship held Taliban prisoners of war, including American John Walker Lindh.

Gary Thompson, a Marine corporal, logs and schedules flights and works with the Special Forces. The two were married in April, and Dietrich said this is the first time they have been apart.

"So much of the country doesn't really see the effect it has on kids," Dietrich said. "They don't have a choice (to go to war). They definitely need the backing of everyone."

Jed May is another local in the military, but his grandmother, Cynthia May, said the family has not received any word that he will be shipped to the Persian Gulf. Jed May, a Steamboat Springs High School graduate, has been stationed in San Diego, but deployed on the USS Squall.

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