MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Elsewhere on today's program, we've heard the latest from southern Afghanistan. Thousands of Marines are in the midst of a major operation, pushing into Taliban territory. Now, a report from the home front. Those Marines have wives, children and parents desperate to know what's happening. Already there have been casualties; one Marine was killed.
NPR has been following a battalion that's in the thick of the mission. The 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment out of Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.
Catherine Welch of member station WHQR has our latest story.
(Soundbite of a ringing phone)
CATHERINE WELCH: The phone is ringing off the hook in Misty Weiser's office. She's the official liaison between the Marines and their wives.
Ms. MISTY WEISER: Once I saw the story, I knew that the wives would be contacting me, asking for confirmation. I knew. I knew that they would be reaching out and looking for something.
WELCH: The news broke the night before. Weiser had been out fishing. She got home, cleaned up, and no sooner had she put her kids to bed than her BlackBerry started buzzing. It was an email from a frantic wife wanting to know if it was true - were their Marines really part of the massive offensive? It was true.
(Soundbite of BlackBerry)
WELCH: And now her BlackBerry chirps or the phone rings every few minutes.
Ms. WEISER: I get a lot of calls asking if he's okay.
(Soundbite of telephone ringing)
Ms. WEISER: 2/8 (Unintelligible), this is Misty. Hey.
WELCH: Weiser's office looks out on the courtyard where Marines of the 2/8 Battalion said goodbye to their loved ones back in May. Weiser promised those Marines that she would take care of their families. So now that the real fighting has started, she's giving them the best advice she can.
Ms. WEISER: Stay calm, find some manner for you to be able to deal with this so that it doesn't upset you. If reading the news upsets you, stop reading the news.
WELCH: There are the ones who don't want to see a newspaper, and then there are others who comb media reports for every detail. The families divide in other ways, too. There are the seasoned wives whose husbands have been through combat before, and then there are the wives who are enduring their first deployment. They're the ones making most of these calls. What they really want is to hear from their husbands. Weiser tells them not to expect a call from Afghanistan.
Ms. WEISER: Some will sit by the phone and wait and then just feel guilty if they go to the store and they miss the phone call.
WELCH: While on the phone, Weiser thumbs through a large, navy-blue binder crammed with contact information. These are the phone numbers of family members Marines want to keep in touch with.
(Soundbite of BlackBerry)
WELCH: During combat, there's only so much she's allowed to say, no matter how much they want to know.
MS. WEISER: The information that they crave is not something that we can provide to them, and that's the bottom line, is we cannot provide them the tidbits of information or data that they want. And that's one of those things that military wives have to learn how to deal with.
WELCH: And Weiser says they have to remember that their Marines are in Afghanistan doing a job, and that the wives back home need to do their job of maintaining the family routine.
For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch.
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