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THE WAR IN IRAQ
LIGHT FOR MARINES
Some staff at Aikahi Elementary School remember a candlelight (and flashlight) welcome-home for Kaneohe-based Marines who served in Desert Storm. They are trying to organize a similar vigil for Marines and a sailor killed Wednesday in Iraq. They are inviting people to hold lights along Kailua roadsides on Thursday. For more information, call Kande Lopes or Gay Jennings at Aikahi Elementary, 254-7944.
One-fourth of the school's student body has at least one parent in the military, so "we weren't sure how we would be affected," Principal Suzanne Mulcahy said.
Only after students had gone for the day did Mulcahy learn from the school's military liaison that none of the Kaneohe-based Marines or sailor killed had school-age children.
That news brought some relief, Mulcahy said, but the deaths will still have an impact on the school. "We know our students will still probably know at least someone" killed in the crash, she said.
Principals at Aikahi Elementary, with about 12 percent military families, and St. Anthony's Catholic School in Kailua, with about 35 percent military families, agreed. All three schools are among those on the lookout for students with deployed parents who could be frightened by the news.
At Aikahi, counselor Kande Lopes will visit every classroom today to bring up the deaths and see if students need to talk about it.
A schoolwide assembly was scrapped in favor of smaller groups, "where they can express their feelings and emotions," Lopes said. "The main feeling a lot of them have, they have told me before, is fear. If their mom or dad is over there, they get into the 'what if,'" she said.
"I will tell them that when I'm feeling anxious, I may be too far in the future and I need to bring myself back to the present," Lopes said. "We'll talk about how to deal with what they can deal with today, what their responsibilities are -- to attend school and do the best they can to obey whatever parent is at home."
"In military culture there is a sense of family," Lopes said. "It's not like a stranger down the street died."
At St. Anthony's yesterday, sixth-grade students in charge of the morning prayer "recognized our fallen heroes," and the school flag was flown at half staff, Principal Lovey DeRego said. But after that, staff tried to "keep the status quo," continuing a planned "Western Day" theme, she said.
Amanda Pressley, whose husband is a Marine but is not deployed, said when she heard of the crash, "I wasn't necessarily surprised. They're over there in a war zone, and it's their job to defend us."
"It's devastating to lose anybody," she said as she worked yesterday afternoon at Muddy Waters coffee shop in Aikahi Park Shopping Center. "Some could very possibly be one of my husband's friends, or a customer."
Chris Rodrigues, who works at a Chevron station near the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, said his reaction to the news yesterday was, "I try to block it out because it's depressing."
"You read about something like that in the paper, and you think about the guys that used to come in here -- and they may not anymore," he said.
"It's sad," Debbie Mench said of Wednesday's crash, as she watched her 2-year-old son, Tristan, play on the Aikahi Elementary playground yesterday. Though her husband is a former Marine, she does not know anyone well who is currently deployed, she said. "But it makes me glad that we have them. They're doing a good job protecting us."