- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

Fayetteville, N.C. First came the designation in June as an All American City.
Good news.
Then came September 11 and its effect on the local economy, with its $4 billion tax base that comes from peacetime at Fort Bragg, the nation's largest military installation, with 41,000 soldiers.
Fretful news.
Next came an ill-timed book "Homefront," by Catherine Lutz, a professor at the University of North Carolina released in November and embraced by anti-military leftists, which paints Fayetteville as "the town that has earned the names Fatalville and Fayettenam."
Bad news.
The city's image has also been damaged by several other accounts that portray Fayetteville as a down-and-out town of 125,000 where businesses take a hit whenever there is a military deployment of U.S. troops.
But right now, in the place with the beautiful dogwood groves and the visible crime problem, there are anxious shopkeepers in the city and anxious military wives with children who dream of a family together for this holiday season.
At the Coffee Scene, one of Fayetteville's few nods toward Bohemia, Jennifer Perrera prepares lattes for a steady stream of Sunday-morning customers, more than half of them from the military base.
"If the military goes, we go," said Miss Perrera of Queens, N.Y., who was born to a military family. The coffee shop, tucked at the rear of a strip mall in a section of town that breeds them, offers specials to military personnel on Wednesdays.
"I would say 75 percent of our business comes from the base," she said.
Fayetteville and Fort Bragg have little in common, except the former is dependent upon the latter.
"They are completely different," Miss Perrera said. "There is nothing extremely patriotic about the people in Fayetteville, but the business owners are because they look at what will happen without that customer base."
So they fly flags with gusto from poles, in windows and on commercial signs.
Daniel Hall comes into the Coffee Scene about four times a week. But at 75, the retired Army chaplain isn't looking for any hipster credibility at the coffeehouse, which offers poetry readings and posts large signs warning those younger than 18 not to smoke.
"When the soldiers leave, their family usually goes home," he said. "Then we are left with nothing here."
Miss Lutz, who disputes that her book disparaged Fayetteville, had a more dire prediction if military personnel are deployed overseas.
"There will be widows and children. The economy will take a beating as soldiers and their families leave town. Workers will be laid off, and they won't get any bailout, like the airlines," she said.
Anxious is what the locals are.

'A few more supporters'
The inextricable link between Fort Bragg and Fayetteville is realized any time there is a conflict that might take away the soldiers and their families. About 8,000 of those stationed at the base live there, the rest in rental homes and apartments in and around town.
There is an acute sensitivity to the image the base gives the town, manifesting itself primarily on a four-mile stretch of strip joints and clip joints called Bragg Boulevard, once the main thoroughfare through the town and now a haven of places with names like the Boogie Room, Bragg Pawn Shop and Skin Fantasies tattoo parlor.
"What people don't tell you is that it is like any other place with a large military population. You are going to have young, single men with some playtime on their hands," said former Mayor Milo McBryde, who has lived here for all his 55 years. "It is no different than any other military town."
The other commercial section of town to the north is where the Cross Creek Mall anchors a retail destination as corporate and familiar as the suburbs of any Sun Belt city.
"We are, above all, a retail town," Mr. McBryde said with a measure of pride.
The bearded ex-mayor was voted out of office in November, and he was looking like a displaced soldier himself when he came to his City Hall office in early December to remove the last of his belongings and say goodbye after 22 years as a city councilman and mayor.
He said Fayetteville gets put on the map every time there is a military conflict because of the size of Fort Bragg and because it is home to U.S. Special Forces, considered by many to be the military's premier fighting outfit.
"The attacks on September 11 gave the town a renewed appreciation for the military," Mr. McBryde said. "People get complacent about the [local troops]."
Troops like to say that for military personnel, the base is the center of the universe.
"And it is to us, too," Mr. McBryde said.
A block north of City Hall, Bob Williams closes the iron gates to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, a $22.5 million glass-and-concrete behemoth that takes up six acres on the corner of Hay Street and Bragg Boulevard at the edge of downtown.
The museum is a vital part of urban renewal for the downtown area, which was once dominated by the same establishments that make Bragg Boulevard so colorful.
"Right after September 11, we got a whole lot of people coming in here," said Mr. Williams, who retired from the Army in 1979, spending his last nine years at Fort Bragg. The terrorist attacks gave people in the city newfound respect for the local military personnel. "We've always gotten along well, the two towns," he said, referring to the base and Fayetteville. "We now have a few more supporters."
Angie Shaw grew up here and began to become irritated with the military fatigues and boots at the shops and the pounding of artillery that could be heard miles away.
She now has a new appreciation for the troops at Fort Bragg. "When this all happened, September 11, I realized why they were here," the 22-year-old waitress said.

On base
On some days, usually early in the morning, the heavy thunder of artillery shakes the windows in homes and apartments around Fayetteville. It doesn't bother the natives or the neighbors of Fort Bragg, however. To do that, you have to say the D-word.
The deployment of U.S. troops is on everybody's mind these days. But on base, it takes on a personality of its own, especially during the holiday season.
"We're going ahead with our plans for Christmas," said Melissa Huggins, wife of Col. James Huggins and mother of three daughters, ages 15, 13, and 2. Col Huggins' status is DRB1, which means he will be the first to go in a full military deployment.
And as Fort Bragg Commanding Gen. Dan McNeil has said, that is only a matter of time.
"We really can't put life on hold," Mrs. Huggins said. She brought her daughters to the annual Christmas-tree lighting on Fort Bragg. She watched a band of camouflaged soldiers play Christmas tunes and watched Santa wheel up in the back of a firetruck, along with Frosty the Snowman.
In August 1990, Col. Huggins was dispatched to Saudi Arabia to fight in the Persian Gulf war. He was gone six months. He and Melissa talked to each other only three times during those 180 days.
One night around the same time, Blair Ross called his wife, Linda, at home and said he would be late.
"I didn't see him for nine months," said Mrs. Ross, who is now anticipating the same situation. Like the Huggins, the Ross family has three children, two teen-agers and an 11-year-old.
Mrs. Ross, a 42-year-old daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who met her husband in Fayetteville, has decorated her family's stucco home on the base for the holidays.
"He may not be here, but we have to prepare," Mrs. Ross said.
Since September 11, she said, "people here have come to tears a lot easier."
The wives of soldiers have cried about the idea of being alone again, as well as wept for the newer, inexperienced spouses "military dependents" as they are called being alone for the first time.
They are worried for the children who have to wonder where their dads are because, in the war against terrorism, the soldiers' location could be secret.
Right now, there are wives in Fayetteville who have no idea where their Special Forces husbands are, Mrs. Ross said.
Although the government will not say how many of these specially trained troops have been called up to active duty for the war, several soldiers have the same answer to the number: "Lots of Special Forces have gone," they say.
One military official puts the number at 5,000 Special Forces troops who have been sent to Afghanistan.
With a shake of her head and a tight smile, Mrs. Ross said, "We're in a different war now."
If the wives of Fort Bragg are uneasy for the holidays, the troops are ready.
Justin Casanave, wearing his red beret and fatigues on base, wonders when he will get to fight.
"Let's go," said the soldier who has been at Fort Bragg for three years. "This is why we are in this. We all want to go, and all of us want to go over there. We'll feel bad if one platoon gets to go and we don't."

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