Threat of war overshadows everyday life
Monday night, President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein -- either leave Iraq with his two sons -- or face military invasion by the United States.
On Tuesday, Hussein turned down Bush's offer.
With a war in Iraq likely, the Bush administration on Tuesday said the nation is tightening security in the United States. Also, the nationwide threat level was raised to orange, which means there is believed to be a high risk of terrorist attacks.
In Tonganoxie the impending war already has repercussions. Servicemen and women have been sent overseas, or will go soon. School children have seen a favorite teacher go off to war, the city's own chief of police has fallen into the ranks.
As teachers struggle with explaining a war to children, their parents are being told to set up family disaster plans to use in the event of terrorism.
And churches are jumping into the throes, sending messages to prayer chains and holding at least one prayer vigil. Tonganoxie may be half a globe away from the battle ground, but with the uncertainty in today's world -- and with the terrifying threat of biological and chemical warfare -- the war involves every one of us.
Read on to see how the community is preparing, and what others think about the war.
A father's view
On one hand, Doug Tate is worried. But on the other hand, he's a very proud father.
Tate's son, Matt, who is 19, will likely head to Kuwait soon.
Matt joined the U.S. Army in August. Since then he's trained in field artillery to work with multiple launch rocket systems.
"There's several jobs affiliated with it," Doug Tate said Tuesday. "Loading the missiles and actually firing the missiles and he's trained on all of that."
The missiles are fired from the back of a vehicle.
"I think he's probably going to drive the truck that carries the reloads," Tate said.
Matt, who is a 2002 graduate of Tonganoxie High School, came home from Fort Sill, Okla., this past weekend to say goodbye to close friends.
Earlier, the Tates had thought Matt's overseas duty would be a couple more weeks off.
"But they moved everything up," Doug Tate said.
"They changed his packing date -- the date he had to have all his personal belongings packed up -- it was supposed to be Friday, but they moved it up to Monday, so I think they probably moved up his other time, too."
As a father, Tate is concerned about his oldest son.
"There's always a certain amount of worry that goes with it," Tate said. "But I'm also very proud of him for serving the country and I'm in support of the president in everything that he's doing, and my wife, Jennifer, feels the say way that I do."
At this point, the United States doesn't have much choice, Tate said.
"I think it's knowing everything we know about," Tate said. "It just needs to be taken care of."
Flying the flag over Iraq
Thomas Innis called home Monday and told his parents, Tanna and Tim Innis, that he had a gift for them -- a United States flag recently flown in an F-16 over Iraq and signed by the pilot.
Thomas, a 20-year-old air force F-16 crew chief stationed in the Middle East, started boot camp just two weeks after his 2001 graduation from Tonganoxie High School.
"That's what he wanted and he wanted to be with airplanes because my dad was in the service," said Tanna Innis.
Innis said she has always shown her patriotism.
"I've had a flag up in my yard in Tonganoxie since we moved here when Thomas was two years old," Innis said. Not even the May 11, 2000, tornado could keep it down for long. Two weeks later, the flag was back up.
Innis, who said she's been so worried about her son that she can't sleep and has lost her appetite, will support the country if we go to war.
"I might not agree with it as a parent," Innis said. "But I agree with the reasons for it. And I know that's what Thomas would tell you, too."
Innis also has a nephew involved in the conflict. Brian Monroe, 25, hails from Louisville, Ky.
"He will be one of the first ones into Baghdad to take care of business," Innis said.
Paper crinkles as Innis opens a letter recently sent by Monroe. In the letter, he asks about his cousin, Thomas, says the days are boring, and writes that he hasn't showered in 22 days, and hasn't had a clean change of clothes since Jan. 27. Finally, he tells his aunt not to worry about her son, and adds: "I won't let any of them make it that far south."
Innis thinks her son will be stationed at a temporary airbase where he will repair F-16s and help load the bombs onto them.
Prayer chains at work
There's not much that Ben Saathoff, pastor of Tonganoxie's First Christian Church, can do for his parishioners who have children in the military.
"We're mainly just trying to be a support group for those that are doing that and letting them know we're praying daily for them," Saathoff said.
The church has a prayer chain, he said.
"We let folks know on the prayer chain that there are certain prayer items to consider and be aware of," Saathoff said. "And the names come up that way oftentimes."
As to the purpose of a war, Saathoff said he has mixed emotions.
"I have reservations just about the whole world's peace, as well as our own country's, and yet I know we have to protect ourselves," Saathoff said.
He's not sure if he's in favor of going to war.
"I wish we had better information," Saathoff said. "Sometimes you just have to let our elected officials do their job and really pray like super that they are doing it."
War isn't what Christianity is about, Saathoff said.
"It's hard to say there's a justifiable war," Saathoff said. "But there are occasions where we have to protect ourselves."
Still, he would rather see peace.
"It wouldn't be my first inclination to go to war," Saathoff said. "That would be my last thing."
Vigil planned on Tuesday
Paul Waters, pastor of the United Methodist Church, invites the community to join him for a prayer vigil. The chapel of the church will be available for everyone from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"We'll have the chapel available for prayer for anybody that wants to come and pray -- or we also invite folks to be praying at home," Waters said.
Like those in the Sunday school class he's teaching on ethics, Waters said he's confused about the confrontation with Iraq.
"Some days it makes sense and other days it's like how sad that we have arrived at this point," Waters said.
Concern in the classroom
Students in Ruth Wickey's first-grade class are already taking the possible war in Iraq seriously.
When asked to write about their heroes, Eric Tate wrote about his older brother, Matt Tate, who is in the U.S. Army and scheduled to depart soon for Kuwait, Wickey said.
Another first-grade boy wrote about Jeremy Goebel, the elementary physical education teacher who is in the national guard. Goebel was sent to Fort Bragg, S.C., several weeks ago.
"He wrote that Mr. Goebel is going to fight for us, for our freedom," Wickey said. "His mother told me that on the night when Mr. Goebel was leaving, her son came home crying, saying is he going to get killed."
Wickey, who as a child had three older brothers in the Air Force during the Vietnam War -- with one brother serving in Vietnam -- knows first-hand what the children are experiencing.
"It does affect them in different ways, and you have to be careful in what you say," Wickey said.
Looking back at her own experience, Wickey said news updates were more important than ever during the war.
"I just remember my whole family being glued to the TV during the news," Wickey said. "I think these first-graders will be doing that with their parents, there's so many people in our community that have gone over there already."
TES assistant principal Tammie George said the school has tried to gradually introduce children to the world strife.
"We put up a display in the entryway with pictures of people who have gone off to serve," George said. "We've talked about discussing with the students what a yellow ribbon campaign is and how we could wear or put yellow ribbons outside the school."