Troops' families tune in to TV

Relatives have little information

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— Tuning into television coverage of the Iraqi conflict has become a ritual for Hayden resident Charlie Epp.

Monday night, when footage of airborne special forces sliding down ropes from Blackhawk helicopters into an airfield, Epp watched closely -- one of those soldiers could have been his son. Wednesday, when news reports said that Army airborne forces had parachuted into Northern Iraq, Epp knew one of those estimated 1,000 paratroopers could have been his son.

Pfc. Alexander C. Epp, the only son of Charlie and Christine Epp, is one of more than 250,000 troops in the Middle East, fighting in the war against Iraq.

He was deployed March 5 to a classified location. His family does not know for certain where he is.

Epp is an Airborne Ranger Special Forces operative, just like the ones portrayed in the recent film about the Somalia conflict, "Blackhawk Down."

It was actually that film that inspired Epp, 24, to enlist in the Army. After seeing it with his father, he said, "That's what I want to do."

Army Rangers are the elite soldiers usually sent into combat first to clear the path of threats for their allies. Their secretive missions usually include securing airfields and urban areas.

Epp is also trained as a fire support specialist, a soldier who call in coordinates of enemy locations to artillery.

"His patriotism to this country is strong," Charlie Epp said about his son. "We're very proud."

Charlie Epp feels this war is necessary. He and his father have both served in the military, so he knows some of the things his son is going though.

While their son fights for their country, he and Christine will have to keep watching the television for updates on the conflict.

Hayden residents Billy and Nadine Mack, who have grandsons fighting in war, also watch television in hopes of hearing good news in the Middle East, but they view the media as being too involved in war coverage.

"I think the press and television makes a disaster for the military, because they let the enemy know too much," Billy Mack said. "It's the biggest handicap in whole war, because they could be watching TV, too."

Nadine Mack did not want to disclose the names of her grandsons, however, she said they have always been committed to doing what is right.

"You hate to see your grandsons go to war, but the war is there and they had to go," Billy Mack said. "I wish they'd let us old guys go, because if we got shot, we've already lived a pretty productive life."

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