Sun, Jan. 26

War hits close to home for Verde Valley families

Contributed photo

BYRON OGDEN is a lieutenant commander in the Navy and stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

Frank and Jackie Ogden of Cottonwood raised a family in the Verde Valley. Their son Byron graduated from Mingus Union High School and went on to graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992.

Like so many brave citizens who have chosen to serve their country, Byron, 33, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, is stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

He has been in the Navy for 10 years and currently flies the Sikorsky SH-60B helicopter and is assigned to anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue and combat insertion. His ship sailed from Norfork, Va., for the Middle East in December. He left behind his wife and four children ages 1 through 8 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Frank Ogden said he is proud of his son.

"He’s a third generation naval aviator," he said. "I was a Navy pilot and saw action in Vietnam, and my father was a pilot who served in World War II."

Frank said he has great faith and confidence in the training his son has received.

"I know my son is going in harm’s way. It’s even harder to take than going yourself."

Frank flew an electronic warfare plane called the Grumman EA-6B Prowler and was in the Navy for 20 years before retiring as a commander.

He said that this is his son’s third deployment.

"This is an action long overdue," he said. "It is overdue for the safety and security of the world."

He said that service personnel are all highly trained and trust in the military system and the government of the United States.

"Trust and loyalty," he said. "Our service people know their jobs and I’m proud of my son. Damn proud. We are just praying that everyone comes home safely."

Frank said his son is over there to do a mission that must be done.

"Military personnel hate the thought of war because they know the horror of war. But Iraq brought us into war."

He said he hopes the civilians understand that our military has a responsibility and a duty to do what their government orders and hopes that our country will support our troops even if they do not agree with the war itself.

"We had to return to Iraq because we didn’t finish the job in ’91," he said. "There is a great swelling of pride before a military action like this. Our people are up and ready."

Jackie Ogden said that having a family member in the military, one expects that they will be sent to fight for their country. She added that she too has confidence in the training that our military personnel receive.

"Navy families are unique," she said. "The [spouse] left behind is in charge of everything and the Navy supports the families too. Navy families are tight."

Jackie said she worked as a civilian with the Navy for 25 years and witnessed for herself the amount of training that they received.

Cottonwood’s Roger and Karen Pfeifer also have children who are serving their country in the fight for peace.

Karen Pfeifer has lived in the Verde Valley for some 32 years and like the Ogdens, she supports the role of peace keeping that our military is charged with.

Her son, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Eidschun, has been an army paratrooper for 12 years. His role is a specialist in anti-terrorism and biological and psychological warfare. He is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Eidschun will celebrate his 41st birthday today.

Pfeifer said whether we like it or not, we have to support our troops and get this thing over with. She expressed a mixture of emotions; pride, fear, concern.

"He knows what he is doing and he’s had lot of experience," she said. "It’s hard knowing that he is going to war, but that’s what he’s trained for. He’s ready."

Pfeifer said that Eidschun is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. Her nephew is a Navy fighter pilot on the carrier USS Nimitz and has served for five years.

Douglas Booher flies the McDonnell F18 Hornet and was deployed three weeks ago.

Pfeifer said she has seven children and 15 grandchildren.

"My whole family is behind this fight," she said. "Our military has been ready for this. They want to defend their families."

I know that they are there to defend us, but the threat of terror attacks is still at home," Pfeifer said. "That’s what scares me more than anything else."

Roger Pfeifer served in the Navy in Vietnam. He is also an Air Force veteran and encouraged all of his children to join the Armed Forces.

The Ogdens haven’t received any correspondence from their son since January when he was at a port in Slovenia near Italy. Even when they received e-mail messages, they were censored and despite Frank’s knowledge and speculation as to what his son was doing and where his unit was, Byron wouldn’t say.

"The ships are on six-month deployment," he said. "He may come home at the beginning of June, but that depends on what happens."

Pfiefer said a lot of service families will experience a breakdown in communication for a while, at least until the fighting is over.

She hopes that America will support the effort to bring peace in the Middle East and the fight to stop the threat of terrorism.

"We are behind the president and this action," she said. "We don’t want the children of the United States to live in the threat of terrorism and another attack like that of September 11th."

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