- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2005

SILVER LAKE, Kan. (AP) — During his 2003 tour in Iraq, Maj. Christopher Phelps sent home a picture from Baghdad of him standing in front of a bombed-out building and holding a handmade sign that said, “Dad, wish you were here.”

The Marine Corps is about to oblige.

Both Maj. Phelps, 34, and his 57-year-old father, Kendall Phelps, a retired master gunnery sergeant, have orders to report to Camp Lejeune, N.C., for training and then deploy to Iraq for a seven-month tour.

They will serve in the same unit and help Iraqi officials rebuild their nation, but it’s still not clear what jobs each will have.

Both men will leave families behind, Kendall Phelps in Silver Lake, a small town northwest of Topeka, and Christopher Phelps, in Shawnee, a Kansas City suburb. Asked about each other’s safety, both said they trust their fellow Marines.

“In the Marine Corps, every Marine watches every Marine, whether it’s your father, a son, whether it’s a brother, whether it’s just a friend,” Kendall Phelps said.

Still, Kendall Phelps’ wife, Sherma, remembered her husband’s concerns early in 2003, during their son’s first tour. She said he wanted to replace his son there or at least be with him to provide protection.

“Now they’re both going to be there, so I can just worry about both of them,” she said.

The Marines don’t keep records on how many fathers and sons serve in the same unit, but it’s rare, said Capt. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for the Corps in Quantico, Va.

As part of the 200-member 5th Civil Affairs Group, the Phelpses will help Iraqi officials restart school systems, re-establish local governments, train police and repair infrastructure, said the unit’s commanding officer, Col. Steve McKinley. That job can’t be done until an area is reasonably secure, he said.

“I’ve got the Phelps family counting on me to bring everybody back alive,” Col. McKinley said.

Christopher Phelps has four sons, ages 18 months to 6 years. The youngest, Taigan, was born shortly after his father’s return from his first tour in Iraq.

Wife Lisa said she is proud of her husband and thinks he is giving his oldest sons an appreciation of the sacrifices necessary to maintain the American dream, but “it makes me just scared to death for his children and myself.”

“I’m a Marine Corps wife,” she said. “I get up and get my kids out of bed, and I’ll be strong for him.”

Kendall Phelps has two daughters and three sons, ages 19 to 34. Josh Phelps, 21, who is living at home while he attends Washburn University in Topeka, said he has mixed feelings about his father’s departure.

“It’s good for my dad, I think, because he loved the Marine Corps so much,” Josh Phelps said. “But it’s also kind of scary.”

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