Soldiers, Military Families Bid Farewell as Troop Surge Begins

As President Bush outlines his new strategy for Iraq, military families and soldiers look for guidance and a hint at what may be in store for their future.

"The president is the key player in all of this. Any information he can give us [that] would encourage a spouse would encourage me," said Cpl. Rudy Queen.

"It informs you of where you may be heading, where you may be going, where things may be heading for us," said Staff Sgt Robert Holt.

The first 90 troops arriving in Iraq Wednesday were from the 82nd Airborne Division, which left for Kuwait last week. The rest of their brigade will soon join them in Iraq.

Many have fought in Iraq before, so for their families, their absence is familiar, but that doesn't make the time any easier.

Military wife Sandra Corbridge said they were given about a week's notice about her husband's deployment. "It was a scramble trying to find everything that he needed, you know, preparing our daughter, trying to explain to her that Daddy's leaving," Corbridge said. "It's been hard. It's been rough."

Corbridge has no idea how long her husband might be in Iraq. "I try not to let that worry me," she added. "And he does, also."

Living Day by Day

The pressures of war require families here to adapt quickly and constantly.

Another soldier shipping out, Spc. Samuel Garcia, just joined the 82nd Airborne, decided to cancel his June wedding and immediately wed his fiancée after learning of the trip overseas.

"It changed things quite drastically," Garcia said.

"You live it day by day. And you take it day by day," said Katrina White, whose husband finished his tour in Iraq in time to be with them for Christmas. He was just sent back.

"It's always hard," commented a fellow military wife, Donna Nelson.

She's learned to answer candidly when her children want to know when their father will return home. She tells them, "'I don't know, but as soon as I do, I'll let you know.' Never lie to them."

Her daughter Christine, 13, said she's found a way to cope. "You just try and keep yourself busy, so you don't try to think about it."

And many military families like the Nelsons expect more will be required of the troops.

"It's going to take time," Donna Nelson said.

Her son Tyler, 14, added, "I believe if we pull out, it will be a lost cause, I really do."