HAMPTON, VA., JAN. 16 -- They rented a stack of videotapes to watch today just so they wouldn't be tempted to watch the news. Never mind that one of the films was "The Hunt for Red October" -- it was only a movie.

But thoughts of Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Jackson were to be avoided at all costs.

Even though for months Nelta and Sharon Jackson have been braced for war, the wife and sister of the 31-year-old serviceman wanted to put off reality a little longer.

They had few interruptions because their telephone was cut off today after they made more calls to Saudi Arabia than they could pay for.

Nelta, 23, and Sharon, 26, were absorbed in the Holly Hunter-Richard Dreyfuss drama "Always" when a reporter rang the bell of their town house, on the outskirts of Langley Air Force Base, and told them that U.S. forces had begun bombing Baghdad.

Nelta was cradling her first baby, Dominique Antonio Jackson, who was born Dec. 20 and has never seen his father. Sharon, who had come to live with her sister-in-law to help with the pregnancy in her brother's absence, was thinking about her boyfriend, who is stationed in Saudi Arabia.

They kept calm as they first heard the news. But as they watched a succession of "talking heads" on one of the networks, they were frustrated, wanting to know more.

"I wish I could see something," Sharon said. "It's like you're waiting to see more, but all you keep seeing is these people talking. To see something on the Iraqi side getting blown up would make me feel better."

And as they listened to President Bush explain his actions, and the mission their loved ones were part of, the women began to voice some skepticism.

When Bush said he planned for a "minimum" of casualties, Sharon said, "I wonder what he considers a minimum of casualties. My idea might be 25, which might sound ridiculous. But to him, is it hundreds or thousands, or what?

"You want to believe everything he's saying, that they're going to get it over with fast, but you just don't know," she said.

The women don't expect Jackson, who was shipped to the Persian Gulf in August, to be on the front lines. He's a mechanic. But still, war is war.

Nelta studied her baby and wondered aloud whether one day he would be "caught up in something like this, and talk about the time his parents went through it."

She said she was searching for faith. "I guess it's like he {Bush} says, the sooner we get this done, the sooner they can come home. I'm just thinking about what my husband's thinking about right now."

"It hasn't quite hit me yet," Nelta said. "It will probably hit me late tonight when I go to sleep and there's nothing to distract you and you're just thinking and thinking and thinking."