CONNECTING MILITARY WIVES, MOMS
While President Bush has been massing U.S. troops in the Middle East for a possible war to oust Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein, a Cove woman has been communicating daily with the military families who have been left behind.
Many of them are worried about what may come of their loved one.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sheryl Anne Hardman set up a Web site to provide support, encouragement and inspiration to the moms and wives of servicemen and women.
Hardman, herself the mother of a serviceman, said she had an average of eight to nine visitors daily to the site, www.militarywivesandmoms.org, after it was launched in October 2001, but that number grew last year.
Visitors are numbering several hundred each day, Hardman said, thanks to an interview she had with K-LOVE Radio a few weeks ago.
K-LOVE, a contemporary Christian music network, which airs on 88.9 FM in La Grande, broadcast portions of its interview with Hardman beginning on Jan. 26. Segments continued to be broadcast throughout that week.
The publicity prompted many mothers and wives to log on to the site for the first time.
"Although most viewers are from the United States, it (the Web site) has been accessed from every continent and more than 20 countries. Active visitors are from most of the states," Hardman said. "The largest number, thus far, is from Virginia."
The site features "words to wives," "words to moms" and message board links.
Hardman said many of the wives and mothers of servicemen are anxious.
"They're concerned about their loved ones (who are away), and how they're going to handle and deal with the things at home," she said.
"Some of them are in difficult situations, especially those wives who are pregnant or dealing with small children, or teenagers without Dad at home," she said.
"Some mothers are sending off their only son or daughter or, in some cases, two of their now-grown children."
Hardman said it has grown very difficult for her to keep up with the on-line communications with the women who are visiting the Web site. As a result she's drawing on three military moms in Indiana, California and Oregon to help correspond.
She also has three helpers from Florida and Texas who are writing replies to wives.
Hardman, who in December 2001 resigned from her job assisting student teachers at Eastern Oregon University, said she relied on Eastern Oregon Net Inc. in La Grande to set up her Web site.
Going beyond e-mail
"I knew how to do e-mail, but had never done anything like this before," Hardman said. The site, launched in October 2001, is based in La Grande.
The words to families include practical, emotional and spiritual help for them in the form of articles, poems, prayers and "sometimes a lighthearted piece or two," Hardman said.
In the "message board," Hardman, who goes by the name Anne on the Web site, encourages mothers and wives to post messages in three subject areas: who they are, their concerns and comments and prayer requests.
"I encourage the women to write to each other. I've received reports of a number of wives or mothers who have made really supportive connections with others in similar situations."
Hardman, a graduate of Grant Union High School in John Day, comes by her interest in the military quite naturally. Her son, Capt. Nicholas Hardman, is in the Air Force.
More than 30 years ago, her husband served in the Marines in Vietnam. He died six years after returning home.
"When he received his orders, I moved home to live with my family in John Day," Hardman said.
"He was gone for almost a year and a half. I did not have a connection with another military wife that whole time," she said.
"Some of these current wives and mothers are in the same situation, feeling unconnected. I feel privileged to reach out to them in this way Â— to let them know they are not alone, that others care about them and that they can make it through these scary days Â— with God's help."
Hardman said she uses the Bible verse, Galatians 6:2, as a guiding principle in her work with the Web site. The verse reads: "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."
"There are some strong women out there in America and some very anxious ones as well," she said.
"... But mostly I see a real strength in these women, and a pride and steadfast support of what their loved ones are willing to do for our country at this time."
Â— Dave Stave