'Home soon,' Marine says; Issaquah family exults
Seattle Times staff reporter
Home. The word rang out from the nine-line e-mail Debbie Job opened Monday morning, and again in the five-minute phone call that came from Iraq yesterday.
Getting in touch with his family for the first time since the Iraq war began six weeks ago, 19-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Job of Issaquah didn't have time for many words, but he did deliver the ones his parents had been longing to hear.
"I'm safe and coming home soon," the Marine wrote from the town of Al Hillah, about 75 miles south of Baghdad. "They tell us they expect us to be flying — not floating — home either in mid-June or in early July."
The e-mail, which Debbie Job (pronounced "Jobe") discovered about 6 a.m. Monday, was a huge delight and relief, but hearing his voice on the phone shortly before noon yesterday was overwhelming.
"After we hung up, I started crying, couldn't quit, couldn't help it. It was so good to hear him, especially sounding so good," she said.
When military families pray — which is often, if the Jobs are any indication — this is the kind of thing they pray for.
"Home" is the word thousands of families around the Puget Sound area are aching to hear from their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers on duty in the Persian Gulf.
And although Aaron Job's return to the U.S. is some distance off, with no definite date, Debbie Job is already figuring out the logistics of a trip to San Diego to welcome him, and Eric Job sent his son a tongue-in-cheek message that he'll be seeking an official "Aaron Back in the U.S.A. Day."
Only a small fraction of the 300,000-plus American troops in the Gulf region are on the journey homeward. Tuesday, some 3,300 crew members are due to arrive in Everett with the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln for a homecoming celebration that could draw 10,000.
"I think I'll probably go up there and wave a few flags myself," said Eric Job, adding that he and Debbie share the joy of every family with a loved one returning from the war.
On Monday, Debbie Job was up before 6 a.m. as usual, starting the coffee maker and heading to the living room to check e-mail. A half-dozen messages had arrived overnight, including one received at 1:26 a.m. from Aaron's Charlie Company Weapons Platoon.
The subject line was puzzling: "PFC Job." For one thing, Aaron was promoted from private first class to lance corporal more than a month ago. And why would the military e-mail her about Aaron? If there's bad news, she reassured herself, it would come as a knock on the front door, not an e-mail.
With a mouse click, concern and confusion gave way to sheer joy.
"Hi, everyone, Surprise, an e-mail from Iraq," Aaron began his note. "Sorry but it's going to have to be a short e-mail. Right now I'm in a town called Al Hillah, it's where the ancient city of Babylon was."
The Jobs had already seen a news report that Marines were in Al Hillah, and that one of their assignments was guarding biblical ruins, a task taken seriously by the Jobs, a family in which Bible-study sessions are a routine part of the week.
Aaron thanked his mother and family friends for the mail and packages — a confirmation for the Jobs that some of the dozens of pieces of mail and goodies they sent hit their mark.
Then, as abruptly as the message began, it ended: "Gotta go. Aaron."
Debbie pointed out the message to daughter Kelsie, 15, then waited until Eric was dressed and headed to the door before handing him a printout.
"I could tell by the look on her face that it was important," Eric said. "So I grabbed it and read it in about three seconds."
The family almost missed yesterday's call. Debbie Job was just about ready to go to lunch with her sister-in-law and the Jobs' Navy son, Ryan, 22, who'll soon head for SEAL training in San Diego.
"We'd been planning to leave about 10 minutes earlier, but one thing after another slowed us down."
The first time the phone rang, it stopped abruptly on the second ring before Debbie could answer it. She saw the words "AT&T Hits" on the phone's caller ID; someone had mentioned seeing that designation when a loved one called home from Iraq.
Two minutes later, it rang again. "Hi ... who's this?" said the voice on the other end, to which Debbie shouted a response: "Ahhh, it IS him!"
He didn't have much news since the e-mail. When his mom asked if he'd had a shower, he said yes, if you count getting water dumped over your head.
Debbie turned the phone over to Ryan for one precious minute of the call, and made sure she told Aaron she loved him before his few minutes ran out. "Gotta go," he said, the same way he'd ended his e-mail.
Before this week, the Job family's only other word from Aaron was a letter that arrived in early April, written in Kuwait a few days before the war started.
During the war, the Jobs followed news reports and messages from other families about Aaron's unit of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, and its drive into Baghdad. "They saw combat, got shot at, did some shooting," Debbie Job said. "This war was crazy, but they made it and can't wait to get home."
In a reply to Aaron's e-mail, Eric sent his love, reminded Aaron to stay careful and urged him to take lots of pictures.
Debbie sent her own note, peppered with capital letters and exclamation points:
"OH MY GOSH!!" she opened. "You must know how excited I am to wake up and have an e-mail from you!!"
She said she was trying, with mixed success, to avoid getting her hopes too high. "I don't want to get too excited to think that you'll be home by early July in case it doesn't really happen, but, oh I'm excited!!"
She asked if there's anything he needs, then cranked up the capital letters again: "WE LOVE YOU," she wrote, "and can't wait to see you!!!!"
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com