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The Marines from the 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment have been in Afghanistan for four months. They're operating from remote bases where there's no easy way to stay in touch with family, just old-fashioned letters home and the occasional phone call. Back home near Tampa, Tom and Vicki Apsey wait for any word from their Marine. We met the Apseys back in May when they said goodbye to their 19-year-old son Lance Corporal Josh Apsey. Catherine Welch of member station WHQR caught up with the Apseys.
CATHERINE WELCH: In front of Tom and Vicki Apsey's pink stucco Florida home there's a sign out front. It reads: Proud Parents of a U.S. Marine. Their son, Josh, banned the sign from going up until after he got through boot camp. And he insisted: No yellow ribbon on the tree until after he deployed.
Mr. TOM APSEY: He didn't want the sign in there. He didn't want the stickers on the car.
Ms. VICKI APSEY: It's almost like until he's done something — you know, he wanted to earn the right to have all of that.
WELCH: Tom's a police officer on the night patrol. Vicki stays home to raise their daughter. Vicki's always kept a journal. It's where she tucks away her son's letters.
Ms. APSEY: I think I have it here.
WELCH: She thumbs through the journal, after flipping back and forth, as she finds what she's looking for: a small envelope with one piece of notepaper. Josh wrote the letter the day after his 19th birthday. She reads it aloud.
Ms. APSEY: I wish I could say I had a happy birthday, but last night we lost two Marines in an IED blast. It's sad, but you move on quick.
WELCH: He got to talk with his mom the same day he wrote that letter. Vicki remembers the call. She says that Josh sounded stressed, telling her about the Marines who died.
Ms. APSEY: And I said to him, I said listen, I said I'm praying for you. Don't worry. And he goes, mom, pray for my friends.
WELCH: Josh calls home about every 10 days. Vicki usually gets the calls — rarely when her husband's around. Just then, as we were talking, the phone rang in the other room.
Ms. APSEY: Oh, answer it.
Mr. APSEY: Hey, Josh. How you doing, son? I' m doing great. It's great to hear from you. Hey listen, I know your mom wants to talk to you, and I love you, and I miss you, and I just can't wait to see you, son.
Ms. APSEY: Hey, I haven't talked to you in so long.
WELCH: They talk about the Mustang Josh will buy when he comes home. Vicki tells him about the new puppy, what his sister is up to, and that his granddad walked a marathon in his honor.
Mr. APSEY: Hey Josh, I'm proud of you, boy.
Ms. APSEY: We're very proud of you son and you just take care of yourself. And just know that, you know, we love you a lot and we miss you. I love you.
Mr. APSEY: Bye Josh.
Ms. APSEY: Okay. (Unintelligible) says love you.
WELCH: The call last for 12 minutes.
Ms. APSEY: Okay, bye.
WELCH: Then it's over.
Ms. APSEY: Well, what are the odds?
Mr. APSEY: I didn't recognize the number.
Ms. APSEY: Wow, okay. That's just awesome, that's awesome.
WELCH: The call was almost relaxed. Usually, Josh races through the list of things he needs. When he got on that bus and headed to Afghanistan back in May, his dad says he became a man. His parents can hear it on the phone.
Mr. APSEY: He's already got me out beat by anything I've ever been through in my life, so I'll definitely be all ears when he comes back home.
WELCH: And when he returns, they say it will be up to Josh to decide when and how much he wants to tell them about his time as a Marine at war.
For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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