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Friday, April 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Family sees photographer as 'mom to fallen boys'

Times Snohomish County bureau

EVERETT — Tami Silicio had warned her sons they might be receiving some phone calls from reporters. But Will Taylor, 21, was still caught off guard yesterday when the phone started ringing at 6 a.m.

It was CNN wanting to interview him about the photograph his mother took of flag-draped coffins on a cargo plane waiting to leave Kuwait — the photograph that got her fired from a job with Maytag Aircraft, a military contractor.

That wake-up call gave Taylor the first inkling of the whirlwind he and his family were in for.

By evening, Taylor was watching himself on network news, and two of his aunts, a grandmother, a cousin and an uncle were on a plane to New York for an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Taylor and the rest of his family say they are not surprised Silicio took the picture — they say they know what it meant to her to help return the U.S. soldiers who had fallen in Iraq to their loved ones.

"I know how she felt about it — she's a mother who has lost a kid," Taylor said from the Everett home he shares with his mother when she is not working abroad. "I don't know if she meant for things to blow up like it has, though."

The picture hasn't dissuaded Taylor from his plan to join the Marines in September.

"I've been planning to go into the Marines for a long time," he said. "I know she (Silicio) will be proud of me for going in."

Tami Silicio's sister Toni Silicio Prebezac, 52, said Tami sometimes sent e-mails about her experiences working in Kuwait.

"(Tami, 50,) said she would say prayers over the coffins. It was like the airplane was a church," said Prebezac, of Edmonds, as she and her family hurriedly prepared to leave for New York. "It was like she was a mom to these fallen boys."

Tami Silicio's oldest son, Richard, died of a brain tumor about six years ago, her family said. In his final days, Tami Silicio brought him home to Everett. She lit candles in the young man's room and played music she knew he would enjoy, said Lisa Silicio, 49, Tami Silicio's sister.

Lisa Silicio said her sister took the job in Kuwait because it was good money and employment was hard to come by.

"It was originally about getting a job," Lisa Silicio said. "But when she got over there, she enjoyed it — she felt like she was doing some good, like she was helping in some way."

Family members said they are proud of Tami Silicio, who has been gone for more than six months, and they look forward to seeing her again.

"This was not done as an anti-war thing," said Leona Silicio, 80, Tami Silicio's mother. "It was done to show families the total respect and honor shown to their sons who are leaving Kuwait."

Rachel Tuinstra:425-783-0674 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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