TV Bridges the Gap Between Soldiers and Loved Ones

Watching the evening news was never a priority for Lewis and Michelle Tatum. The Sulphur Springs couple has three kids, full-time jobs and a property full of animals to keep them busy.

But the couple's priorities changed when their son, Corp. Lewis Tatum Jr, left for the Middle East. Since then, watching the news has become a ritual in the family's home.

"It seems like that's all we do," says Michelle. "When we walk through the front door, we just plant ourselves in front of the television. I'll even be cleaning house or doing laundry and my head is looking toward the TV set."

And television is bridging the gap between mother and son. A few weeks ago, Michelle spotted her mellow-natured soldier on television singing with a group from his division.

"He was kneeled down in the front, and I looked at him. It was plain as day -- my son on TV. It was like I could reach out and grab him through the television."

The second citing came last week, when a family friend saw Tatum talking to Fox News Correspondent Oliver North.

"For me, (the television) is helpful," says Tatum Sr. "Because it's keeping me a little bit in contact with him."

Michelle believes she spotted her son again Wednesday night. She noticed several amphibious assault vehicles, like the one Corp. Tatum works on, circling downtown Iraq.

"The Amtracs were coming through Baghdad," she remembers. "They were showing just several of them coming through, and there was one I noticed." "(My son) was sitting on one of them, and he turned with his gun. He had the smile he always has. I looked really close, and I feel like that was him."

Corp. Tatum, otherwise known as Bubba, joined the marines to follow his father and grandfather's footsteps. Lewis Tatum Sr. served in the navy, and his father fought in World War II.

"It's a whole lot easier when you're over there, than when your kids are over there," says Tatum Sr.

Although, the Tatums have not been able to talk with their son, they believe he's traveling with the1st, 5th, or 7th Marine regiments -- all have faced heavy resistance in Iraq.

When breaking news pops up on television, the couple instinctively looks toward the screen. On CNN today, reporters declare a suicide bomber has struck four U.S. Marines, and all of them are wounded. Embedded reporters believe the soldiers belong to the 5th Marine regiment. One of the units Tatum could belong to. Because Tatum works on assault vehicles, the family finds it unlikely he'd be near the Palestine Hotel explosion.

They refocus their energy on something else. In eye-view of the living room is a wall of family pictures. The couple's favorite is the one where Corp. Tatum is clowning around with his buddies.

"(In that picture), he's acting kind of silly with his buddies," says Tatum Sr. "That's him. We're worried to death, but I'm sure he's having a ball."