For three long days, Mary Hukill tensely and nervously waited for news of her husband, Marine Lance Cpl. Maurice Hukill, 25, a graduate of Fairfax County's J.E.B. Stuart High School who was stationed in Beirut.
"I tried calling the numbers. They kept telling me that they would let me know anything they heard," she said yesterday from her home near the Camp Lejeune Marine Base in North Carolina. "The only thing to do, they said, was just wait." So she waited, she said, and she cried.
The knock finally came at 3:30 Wednesday morning. But it did not bring an end to the painful uncertainty.
Mary Hukill learned that her husband had been officially listed as missing.
"In other words," she said, crying softly, "I'm still waiting."
Other families from the Washington area also joined Hukill in learning officially that, for them, the Pentagon had no news. The Defense Department listed as missing Lance Cpl. Nicholas Baker, Lance Cpl. James Knipple and Cpl. Eric Washington, all of the Alexandria area.
As of yesterday evening, 24 families in Maryland, Virginia and the District had been notified by the Pentagon that their son or husband was dead, wounded or missing. Four of those in Maryland and five in Virginia were listed as dead.
"I try to prepare myself for the worst," Mary Hukill said. "You still hope.
"People have been very nice, they keep calling--officers' wives and the chaplain--to ask if there's anything I want," she said. "All I want is my husband."
Hukill's parents, who now live in Elizabethtown, Pa., said they are very proud of their son. "Certainly, it's a tremendous loss to us, if he is in fact lost, but we're proud of what he's doing, and we're proud he served his country," said his father, Henry Hukill. The elder Hukill was in the Navy for about 22 years, serving on nuclear submarines, and is an executive at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.
At Fairfax's J.E.B. Stuart High, where Hukill graduated in 1976, his baseball coach, Tom Arehart, remembered him as "a real leader. . . . He was a pitcher and an outfielder, and a very good athlete. He led the team that year in hitting, and also in home runs."
More than that, Arehart recalled: "He took the initiative, when things needed to be done. And that was a quality I didn't know he had until I made him captain. If I had to look back and pick a guy who did a truly outstanding job as captain, he would be one of those I would pick.
"He was one of those who never backed down from anybody," Arehart continued. "If there was something that needed to be done, he never walked away from it."
Hukill joined the Marines after graduating from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in forestry management. He and his wife viewed the military as "a good secure start for our future," Mary Hukill said. Their dream was to one day own a pet store. "He was just like me," she said. "He loved animals."
His last letter to his wife arrived Oct. 10. "He never wrote and told me his feelings about being in Beirut," she said. "He was doing his job. He was proud of it, and I'm proud of him, and that's all there is to it. I don't have any regrets," she said, her voice breaking.
"I just want you to know--I support everything he's done. And I support the U.S. Marine Corps," she said. "I'm just worried about my husband as a man, that's all."
The Pentagon said yesterday it listed Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William B. Foster Jr., 24, of Richmond, who had been reported injured and later as missing, as killed.
"He never should have been on the injured list," Judy Barlow said yesterday, as she spoke of her stepbrother. She said her family was not angry about the mistake. "There's been a lot of mass confusion. We understand."
The other four Virginians listed as killed were Lance Cpl. Warner Gibbs, 20, of Portsmouth; Lance Cpl. Douglas E. Held, 21, of Chesterfield County in suburban Richmond; Cpl. Joseph Owens, 24, also of Chesterfield County; and Pfc. Jeffrey Owen, 19, of Virginia Beach.
The four Maryland servicemen reported killed were Lance Cpl. Davin M. Green of Baltimore, Chief Hospital Corpsman George W. Piercy of Mount Savage, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey James of Baltimore, and Pvt. Charles Bailey, 19, of Berlin.