Local Mom Talks About Son In Iraq

The morning after the bloodiest weekend in Iraq since the President declared an end of major combat there has left some East Texas families even more anxious and nervous. The families can't help but hope their soldier is not among the dead. The weekend attack that brought down a Chinook helicopter in Iraq killed 16 soldiers, including at least three from Texas' Fort Hood. 20 soldiers were injured. Since the May 1st declaration by President Bush major combat operations were over, there have been a total of 238 U.S. casualties in Iraq. During the major combat, there were 138 US casualties. The downed helicopter hit close to home for one East Texas family.

For three-year-old Madison Whitton, it's just another day her daddy is away at work. She has no idea, John Whitton, Jr. spends his nights in an airport hangar in Iraq, praying the mortars being lobbed at him don't get any closer. Her grandma knows, and worries about it, everyday. In fact, for six hours yesterday, Maggie Whitton didn't know if her son was alive or dead. That's because he is a flight engineer on a Chinook helicopter, just like the one that was shot down.

"Naturally, the minute that I heard it, my hair stood on end, you know, and I wanted to start chewing my nails," said Whitton. "He called as quickly as he could to let us know that it was not him or anyone in his unit."

Maggie has been here before. She worried through eight months while John served in "Desert Storm." Then, in 2000, one of her three sons died.

"Knowing that there was a possibility, and that there still is a possibility that I could lose another son, is almost more than I can bear," Whitton said.

She's also frustrated, because she doesn't understand why our troops are in Iraq in the first place.

"They are a warring nation and that's all they know. And that's all they'll ever know. I just don't know where it's all going to end," said Whitton. "Our people are getting killed for no reason, because, nothing has changed. It's gotten worse. Does that mean my son is going to be over there for five years. Is he going to be over there for ten years. Is he going to come home in a month in a box?"

Despite her concerns, she's proud her son is serving his country.

"He's over there putting his life on the line for me. Well, I'm going to stay here at home and put my life on the line for his family."

Kevin Berns, reporting.