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Wives of U.S. Troops Share Pain -- and Often Politics

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2004; Page A01

LONDONDERRY, N.H. -- Shona Emery, short and blond, a mother of four whose youngest most often sleeps curled beside her in bed, wakes up at 1:40 a.m. and pads to the computer. She taps out an instant message to her husband, Jesse.

"Hey babe."

Friends, from left, Laura Robischeau, Jennifer Rowan, Dawn Cameron and Shona Emery of New Hampshire all have husbands who are serving overseas. (Michael Powell -- The Washington Post)

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Jesse's answer pops up two seconds later on her screen. "Hey babe. I am leaving for the airport in 5 minutes."

"Cool. Running a little late?"

"I got delayed already, car bomb near the front gate of the airbase. It's clear now though."


"I love you," he writes.

"Love you," she responds. "Be safe."

"I will," he writes, "I will."

Shona's life plays like that now. She drops the kids off at school, hauls groceries at Shaw's Supermarket, and handles the play date and soccer game and breakfast-lunch-dinner regimen. Then she catches a snatch of AM radio or cable news and hears about another soldier killed and she sucks in her breath and waits to hear whether the attack occurred near her husband's base.

Her feel for the geography of Iraq matches that of a long-haul truck driver from Basra. Her husband is a corrections officer who now lives in the 110-degree heat of the Iraqi desert. He rides shotgun on the truck convoys that cut across the horizon like video-game targets for jihadi snipers and roadside bombers.

New Hampshire ranks second per capita in the percentage of National Guard members serving in Iraq. These soldiers -- diesel mechanics, auto parts managers and school counselors -- have left behind families in states -- such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- that are divided with almost mathematical precision between Republican and Democrat, hawk and dove, President Bush and John F. Kerry. The families may or may not swing an election. But there is little doubt where most stand. Polls show that two-thirds of them favor Bush.

Shona is no different. She may absorb a grim vision of war in her early-morning electronic exchanges with her husband, but she remains a ready vote for Bush, even if Jesse does another tour.

"My husband's a hunter and a warrior," she says. "He's totally pro-Bush."

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