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Saturday, March 1, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Job family: I knew this was coming. And I knew it would bother me.'

Seattle Times staff reporter

Families throughout our region are coping without husbands and wives, sons and daughters, now on their way to the Middle East. As war looms, The Seattle Times will visit with families dealing with everyday realities, from an empty chair at the dinner table to goodnight stories read without Mom or Dad. Today we meet the Jobs of Issaquah, whose son Aaron landed in Kuwait this week, and the Kunzelmans of Burien, bracing to be without their husband and father.

When Debbie Job turned 45 Sunday, her focus was thousands of miles away from her Issaquah home.

With 6,000 U.S. Marines landing in Kuwait, she knew the chance of recognizing any particular one on TV news reports was as tiny as the grains of desert sand on which they had already begun training.

"But if one them is your son," she said, "you have to look."

With possible war looming, untold thousands of military mothers — not to mention fathers, spouses, siblings, sons and daughters — are feeling that need to look, that need to know. Soldiers like Aaron Job, nine months out of Sammamish's Skyline High School, are now in the Middle East, and their families are hungry for news.

Debbie Job didn't actually need the networks to confirm that one of the Marines landing in Kuwait this week was 19-year-old Pfc. Aaron Job (pronounced "Jobe"). Neither did her husband, Eric, 51, nor their daughter, Kelsie, 15.

An Internet site had already passed along word that one of the ships arriving in Kuwait was the 844-foot USS Boxer, the ship that carried Aaron Job's battalion out of San Diego on Jan. 17.

Even so, Debbie Job set two VCRs on TV news networks and kept one eye on the television while she prowled Internet news sites and support groups for details and for any word of her son. One moment in particular caught her attention: She saw Aaron's battalion commander being interviewed, and she eagerly scanned the faces of the many Marines conducting a "prisoner of war" drill. But Aaron was not in the shot, she said, unless he was playing the part of one of the face-down "prisoners."

On the five-week journey aboard the Boxer, Aaron had been able to call home nine times; Debbie noted each call on her pocket calendar. Periodically, she called in to add funds to his commercial long-distance card to make sure he wouldn't run out of money for the $1-a-minute calls.

The transition brought a new reality: Aaron was no longer "on his way to the Middle East" but in it. And, as the basketball-sized globe near the refrigerator confirms, very close to Iraq.

"I knew this was coming," said Debbie Job. "And I knew it would bother me."

Faith in God and support from others help give the Jobs strength to cope with their concern. A computer printout of "A Mother's Prayer for her Marine" hangs on the refrigerator, and Debbie connects with other Marine families in the area through a "Band of Mothers" Web site, www.sharp-design.com/bandofmothers/home.html.

"Almost every day, someone is telling me that they're praying for him," Debbie Job said. "Some of the people aren't very enthusiastic about the war, but they're genuine about supporting the troops."

This is a family with a military tradition: Eric Job served in the Navy in Vietnam and his father was a fighter pilot in World War II.

Aaron's old brother, Ryan, 22, just graduated from a Navy boot camp and recently arrived in Florida for advanced training on handling explosives, a step toward becoming a Navy Seal.

"I think about both of them and we pray for both of them every single day," said Eric Job. "There's a real hollow spot here now."

Aaron Job is a hunter and fisherman who also loves being around children. "He likes nothing better than having his cousins from Spokane crawl all over him," his mom says, and she produces the snapshot to prove it: Four young cousins — all under 6 — mobbing him at a family gathering in Moses Lake last fall.

Playing with children at a youth center in Bolivia was one of his favorite parts of a two-week church mission there in 1999.

Aaron signed up for the Marines in August 2001, just before his senior year. It was a "delayed entry," committing Aaron to boot camp after graduation.

Within weeks, the significance of that commitment took on a heightened reality, with the terror attacks of Sept. 11. By the time he entered boot camp last summer, speculation was already building about a war on Iraq.

"We saw this coming and he knew it was a distinct likelihood," Eric Job said. Noting that his son specifically opted for the Marine infantry, he added: "I think he wanted the toughest job they could dish out, and he got it."

On each of his calls — except the ones that came in the middle of the night — Aaron has spent a few minutes chatting with Kelsie, a Skyline freshman. "We talk about how school is going and he asks about his old teachers," she said, adding that the conversation topics are "nothing heart-wrenching."

Still, she thinks of him each time she glances into his room or sees a can of Coke, his favorite soft drink.

Debbie Job says the family is about as equipped as possible for this emotional ride.

"We have such a huge support system with tons of people praying for us," she said. "There's no doubt that's why we're doing as well as we can. It wouldn't make it hurt any less if something happens, but at least we know God's in charge."

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

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