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Military parents contend with anxiety of unknowns



Published: Sat, March 22, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Several parents urged people to pray for the troops.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Now that Operation Iraqi Freedom is under way in earnest, the families left behind by military personnel, whether in the Persian Gulf or on their way, are feeling the same things: worry mixed with pride.

At last report:

UNavy Lt. Rebecca M. Ortenzio of New Middletown was in the Persian Gulf as a dental officer aboard the USS Duluth, part of the USS Tarawa Battle Group.

UAir Force Airman 1st Class Stephanie (Cetor) Cole of Austintown was in Germany waiting to be sent to her designated base in a couple of days.

UMarine Corps Cpl. Adam C. Hrvatin, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was aboard the USS Nassau in the Gulf region.

UFlorida National Guard Pfc. Caprice N. (Frazeskos) Berry of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., formerly of Youngstown and Campbell, was mobilized. Her unit was on standby at Fort Stewart, Ga., and its gear had been shipped the last time her father, Nicholas Frazeskos, heard from her a week ago.

Their families' primary concern is for their loved ones' safety. But their anxiety level is also raised by not knowing where they are.

'Glued to the TV'

"I wish I did know where he is. I'm watching TV constantly. The 'shock and awe' was very disturbing. I'm very concerned," said Alexa Hrvatin, Adam's mother. "I feel doing something [about Saddam Hussein] was long overdue. But it's awfully difficult when you know your son is there. It's hard to sleep."

Adam's parents, Larry and Alexa Hrvatin of Poland, are originally from Salem. They had lived in Florida before moving back to the area in recent years.

Berry, a generator mechanic with the 743rd Maintenance Company in Florida, was deployed in February for possible service in the Persian Gulf, said her father, of Campbell. He too has been "glued to the TV."

"I'm very proud of her," Frazeskos said. "We have the best-trained military in the world, and I feel our troops will come home with minimal casualties."

Still, he says he is very worried. "Wherever my daughter is, may God look after her," he said.

And he couldn't help but voice his "disappointment" with France, Canada and other nations for refusing to help the United States in Iraq.

Army Ranger dad

As it happens, Airman Cole could end up doing what her father was slated to do: be part of a Persian Gulf war. He didn't get the chance. John Cetor, an Army Ranger in 1991, was on a plane to the Persian Gulf when the war ended. "We got off the plane, then got back on and flew home," he said.

Cetor, who became a mail handler for the Postal Service once he retired from the Army after 21 years, said his daughter attended Youngstown State University for a year after graduating from Austintown Fitch High School. She decided to go into the Air Force to get the GI Bill benefits, and signed up for six years.

Cole last heard from his daughter in a 10-minute phone call Wednesday night just before she was deployed.

"It's a scary thought," Cole's mother, Micha, said of the possibly of her daughter being in the Persian Gulf. "Tell everybody to pray for them. That's the best weapon right now, I think."

"Like everyone who has someone in the war zone, my anxiety level is super-high. My stomach is jumping all over. I have the same sensation now as when the 9/11 attacks happened," Dr. Joseph Ortenzio said.

His daughter, Rebecca, is a dentist and a noncombatant, so he said he is not quite as worried as he might be.

Dr. Ortenzio said Rebecca is "100 percent behind what she's doing. She wants to get on with it and get it over with. And she's quite upset with the French," he said.

His son, Aaron, is a Coast Guard pilot. "Both of our children are pretty good patriots," he said.

Feeling responsible

Dr. Ortenzio, an East Palestine chiropractor, said he feels partially responsible for his daughter being in potential harm's way.

"When she asked me if she should accept the Navy scholarship to dental school in exchange for four years' service, I told her it sounded like a good deal," he said. "I said, 'You're a female and a dentist.' I never thought they would put her on a ship. So much for my logic," he said.

"I'm scared, let's face it. I hope it's swift and fast and that she and everyone comes home safely," Nancy Ortenzio said.

"What upsets me the most are the war protesters. Freedom didn't come without fighting. The kids know Saddam Hussein is not right. When Rebecca was in Bahrain, she was insulted by the way women were treated," Mrs. Ortenzio said.

"I just wonder, if this war goes on, if we'll stay focused ... the way we did during World War II. I think we have to all pull together right now as a nation," Dr. Ortenzio said.

alcorn@vindy.com




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