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Military moms pull together in support of loved ones

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On June 9, 2008, five area boys left together for San Diego, Calif., to attend U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Training. They graduated from basic training together on Sept. 5, 2008, and continued on to various training schools and assignments.

Two of them, LCpl Jake Danielson, son of Ruth and Reed Danuser, West Fargo, and LCpl Chance Zacher, son of Annette Thompson, West Fargo, are stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and currently serving in Afghanistan. LCpl Josh Fry, son of Pam Fry, West Fargo, and Steve Fry, Grand Forks, is stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., and currently is serving in Japan. LCpl Justin Tangen, son of Todd and Leah Tangen, Kathryn, N.D., is stationed in Katsab Naval Base, Wash. LCpl Matt Wolf, son of George and Lynn Wolf, Grand Forks, also stationed at Camp LaJeune, returned from Afghanistan this October.

Of these five young men, four were not home this Christmas. Matt Wolf spent six months in Afghanistan this summer and fall and was home with his family in Grand Forks for the holiday.

Matt's mom, Lynn, tells this story of his absence during the summer:

"During the holidays, when Matt was gone, the family would get together at the lake home.  We had the Marine flag proudly waving from the back of the pontoon as we toured the lake.  We took many pictures and sent them to him to make sure he knew he was included in the celebrations.

"When Matt returned, just having him safely on American soil and having access to his cell phone was an overwhelming experience. As happy as we were to have Matt back, we knew it meant one of his buddies had gone to take his place."

During Matt's deployment, Ruth Danuser kept in touch with Lynn through Facebook and e-mails.

"I tried to be supportive of Lynn," Ruth said, "but I have to be honest; I didn't really understand the depth of her feelings until my son, Jake, left in late October."

Since then, Ruth has been working on getting in touch with the other moms in this group in the hope that a Marine Moms support group will begin after the first of the year.

"Since Jake left, I have relied heavily on these other women and am so grateful for their friendships," Ruth said. "Even though we don't know each other well, we are and will always be a family through our common bound of being a mom of a Marine.

"As the saying goes, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine.' So it goes for Marine families, too. When one rejoices, they all do, and when one grieves, they all do. The family of a Marine stretches beyond all borders and bloodlines."

"As a (military) parent, you know the depth of worry, knowing the ultimate sacrifice your child could be giving their country and yet you still try to go through every day doing your usual things and don't always let on that you think about it all the time," Pam Fry said. "The friendships I have had with other Marine Moms have been very supportive during those difficult times; boot camp and now being shipped off to different stations and deployments.

"It is always great to have someone to turn to that knows exactly how you're feeling and understands your concerns and can always give a tip on what to include in that next care package!"

These local Marine Moms have tried to stay in touch and keep each other from going crazy during this time of minimal communication with their sons by using their imaginations.

"I now sleep with my phone because Lynn told me that if Matt called, it was always in the middle of the night," Ruth said.

At a time when most parents have extra money for themselves because their kids have moved out of the house, these moms find themselves spending lots of money mailing box after box of food and toys, and books and underwear, and socks and newspaper articles and wet wipes and pictures and silly stuff to their deployed son, not knowing if it will take two weeks or six to get there. Or if it will get to him at all.

They worry about whether or not his iPod still works or if he needs a new set of earphones because his may have broken and he can't live without his music. When one mom gets a phone call, they make sure everyone else knows, and get almost as excited as the biological mom

They will send out an e-mail because, for the first time in their son's life, he read a book from cover to cover and mom is so proud. Every day is spent on the Internet looking for updates on their son's units' Web site, and then they make sure to tell the others if they spot anything.

Of course, there are much bigger, more important things to worry about when sons and daughters are overseas serving their county. The support of the community and churches and businesses is so appreciated by these Marines and their families. It warms these parents' hearts when friends and strangers say they will pray for their child, when someone asks for an address so they can write to him/her, or sends mom or dad a note asking them to thank their child, etc.

"Some found it difficult to understand or deal with the unexpected flood of tears and emotion when asked how Matt was doing," Lynn said. "I find other Marine Moms understand this perfectly."

The Marine Moms support group won't just be for 'experienced' moms. Mary Kramvik's son, Adam, left for boot camp Dec. 1.

"One thing that helped me get through these first couple of weeks of boot camp is the support I had from Pam Fry," Mary said. "Somehow, it seems that God knew I needed that extra support and put her in the right place at the right time. I am finding the Marine 'family' remarkable."

Mary also noted the particular difficulty for parents during the holidays.

"Being a recruit mom at Christmas puts a little different spin on things," she said. "Even though my son is not overseas, it is doubtful we will hear from him.

"When I talk to people, most don't realize that in Basic Training the contact is reduced to snail mail. I do carry my cell phone everywhere on the remote chance he would call. The Internet message board is full of hope from parents that a Christmas call will be allowed.

"People also do not seem aware that recruits are not allowed packages of any kind, so as much as we want to send them Christmas cookies we are not allowed to."

Justin Tangen was able to be home with his family in mid-December and recently returned to Katsab Naval Base. "The goodbyes aren't getting any easier," said his mom, Leah.

This holiday season, as everyone spends time with their families and other loved ones, these Marine moms ask that you remember everyone serving in the military whether it's stateside or overseas with a prayer. After all, all moms think of their serving men and women as "still their little child," Ruth said.

Anyone wishing to be a part of their Marine Moms support group is asked to contact Ruth Danuser at or 701-799-8946. All Marine moms are welcome regardless of their family members rank or experience.