A soldier's story
The Ebys check their respective computers all day long — and sometimes into the night when the news is bad and the sleep won’t come.
They’re not the only ones waiting to hear from their daughter, 31-year-old Army Warrant Officer Beth Eby.
Friends, co-workers and even strangers are hooked on her e-mail missives, which span the drudgery and the drama, the confusion and the camaraderie of the war in Iraq. The e-mails get forwarded to other people — distant relatives of friends of friends, and then they forward them — and the e-mail chain grows.
Former Cave Spring High School student Beth Eby oversees 22 men and women who maintain missile-launching equipment. She joined the Army 10 years ago, specializing in electronics; the former harpist scored off the charts in manual dexterity.
Her unit is supposed to be stationed along combat’s edge. But edges sometimes blur, as you’ll read in the following excerpts from her astounding — and apparently uncensored — letters. During World War II, American soldiers wrote home on tissue-thin paper — V-Mail, it was called — and the heavily censored letters took up to a month to reach home.
“She’s had to learn some good coping skills,“ her mother says.
When she arrived in Iraq in February, it was for a two-month stint. Now, with new orders to stay at least six more months, she’s preparing for summer in the desert.
She writes weekly at least, more often when she knows the headlines are grim (so her folks won’t worry). She writes from a laptop in her room, which was a torture chamber during Saddam Hussein’s reign. She stores her letters on a memory card, then sends them from one of the coveted Internet-access computers at her Baghdad International Airport compound.
No matter how you feel about the war, the letters offer a compelling behind-the-scenes look at life during wartime.
“It’s not all gloom, as the media feeds us daily, but war is the business of killing, first of all,” John Eby says.
His daughter’s letters provide “a sense of balance with the daily barrage of darkness from Iraq as shown on the evening TV news shows,” he adds.
Foremost for the Ebys, they prove that, for another day, their daughter is safe.