- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

FAIRFAX, Va., March 28 (UPI) — Much to my relief we heard from Rick on Friday. Twice.

My husband, UPI reporter Richard Tomkins, is embedded with a Marine battalion somewhere in the Iraqi desert. No one had heard from him for

five days until last night. It was a great relief.

I'm not sure where he is in the desert. He's not allowed to get too specific, although his latest story said he was "tantalizingly close to

Baghdad." He sure sounded excited about that. Our teenage sons also thought it was pretty cool. I, on the other hand, am less than thrilled.

It was great to hear his voice though. He called on his satellite phone from the middle of the Iraqi desert. Technology has come a long way. He sounded like he was calling me from just up the road at our

local Safeway to check on our bread and milk situation.

"Hi sweetie, I'm fine, the dust storm was amazing, you couldn't see a foot in front of you. I haven't had a shower in over a week and it's really hot," is what he said, although I'm paraphrasing.

"Oh my god, you must all stink to h#@*, how can you all stand it?" I remember saying that part. He also spoke to our youngest son. I don't know what they spoke about but it must have been pretty impressive to a 15-year-old, I heard his say "awesome" and "cool" a lot.

I asked him why he hadn't contacted anyone for almost a week. "We've all been worried sick," I said, noticing a slight whiny tone in my voice. "Military blackout," he said. Who do I blame at the Pentagon

for that rule?

We caught up on all the family news. I didn't tell him my car and his had been in the shop for extensive, and therefore expensive, repairs.

No need to worry him, he's got enough on his mind.

I did tell him the one piece of good news. Our oldest son finally decided on a college. Thank goodness. I was dreading going through that debate on my own. Luckily for me, he picked the one his father

wanted him to go to. Phew, dodged a bullet there. Now all I have to do is write a really big check for tuition and board and start worrying about my first-born being on his own out in the big wide world. A

mother's work is never done.

The line went dead after this and I was sorry I hadn't had a chance to tell him we loved him and were proud of him.

Within a minute he called back. He'd dropped the phone, he was trying to light a cigarette and it fell out of his hands. It must be intense over there. Rick had given up smoking about three months before he

left.

We said our goodbyes, several times. It's funny when someone is a long way away and you are worried about them. The more you say "I love you" the more you think it will protect them from danger.

I hope it's true.




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