- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

CHICAGO, March 18 (UPI) — An exhausted Beth Graves prayed Tuesday for a miracle as her husband and son headed for Fort McCoy, Wis., en route to southwest Asia.

"I keep hoping for some 11th-hour miracle," said Graves. "I'm really disappointed that diplomatic efforts did not work. My heart is really going out to all the husbands, wives and parents watching this countdown. I can't imagine how difficult it can be when your loved one is over there. It's hard enough when they're still here."

The downstate Illinois family has been preparing for deployment for weeks.

Monday night, as President George W. Bush issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons, Graves had a sendoff dinner for her husband, Command Sgt. Michael Graves, 46, a full-time employee of the Illinois National Guard who handles battalion personnel services.

Sunday night, the Graveses had a sendoff for their son, Spec. Matthew T. Dyer, 18, a college student who drives tractor-trailer rigs for the Illinois Army National Guard. Dyer leaves behind a girlfriend, Gretchen Kopec, 16. "We just met her recently," the mother said.

Dyer left Monday to pick up trailers for the military tractors before heading for Wisconsin. The deployment interrupted his final semester at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill. Just before he left, he received an acceptance letter from Illinois State University, where he was planning to complete his college education.

"Obviously that was interrupted," Beth Graves said.

Beth Graves said she just caught excerpts of Bush's speech "because we were having our last supper."

"Mostly we were actually just talking about how nice it would be when everyone gets home," she said. "Basically, we're hoping the main thrust of the war — since it looks like we're going to war — will be over before they get there.

"We're praying for all the soldiers already over there and the people we know, but hoping things will be resolved quickly."

Both Michael Graves and his stepson were mobilized Saturday — March 15, Graves's birthday. Their duty orders are for one year, not to exceed two.

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