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*On the home front, fighting the uncertainty; Families of Marines help one another with events, Web site

Karen and David Marks once anguished for months not knowing whether their sons away at military boot camp were safe and well.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-militaryfamilies_27cco.ART0.North.Edition1.3e44412.html

12:27 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 27, 2006
By LAUREN D'AVOLIO / The Dallas Morning News

During boot camp, the brothers – both Plano East Senior High School graduates – could send only infrequent letters by snail mail to their Plano home.

Mr. and Mrs. Marks found others living with the same uncertainty by visiting Marine Parents.com and joined the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of a support group for parents of Marines. The Web site was established in 2003, and the local network has existed since 2004. It meets the first Saturday of each month at various locations, with up to 45 parents attending.

"They helped us get through not being able to communicate with our sons," Mr. Marks said. "Not knowing what our sons were doing and how they were doing – really the most difficult part – the Marine parents kept us motivated and supportive of each other."

Mrs. Marks once received an e-mail from Matthew Marks, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, saying that he would be out of the country for several days. He'd contact her when he returned.

"I can understand for security reasons that's all I need to know. But you're sitting there looking up stuff on the Web sites and looking up stuff on the news that might give you a hint of what your son is going through," Mrs. Marks said. "Where is he, you ask yourself."

She logged on to Marine Parents.com to gather advice from the site and to see what other parents had heard from their children. That helped.

The Markses' Plano home teems with military pride, its jumbo Marine Corps flag flapping and Mrs. Marks' battery-powered earrings frenetically flashing red, white and blue. Recently, the Markses invited other parents of Marines – and the Marines themselves – to a bash at their house.

Saturday was one of Michael Marks' last days in town. In October, he will begin eight months of training in Pensacola, Fla., as a mechanic on helicopters and airplanes. For now, he's training in San Diego.He said he likes the Marine brotherhood and insists he wanted to join regardless of his older brother's service. He said the Marines support each other no matter what.

"People are born to go to college or do their own thing," he said. "Serving in the Marines is something I was born to do."

Merlla Scott, who lives in Savannah, Texas, said her son, 18-year-old Cory Purl, was a "punker" while at Plano East. The group for parents has given her a soft place to fall – and the Marines straightened out her son.

"My kid was going down the path of self-destruction," she said. "The change is nothing short of miraculous."

Diane Flowers of Dallas is a moderator for MarineParents.com, managing the recruit message board. She's also on the board of directors for Marine Parents.com and has been a member of the local network since 2004. Her son, Cpl. Michael Flowers, 23, is in the Marine Corps Reserve. He's served two tours of duty in Iraq, she said.

Free care packages for Marines can be requested through the Web site, she said.

The organization tries to ensure that every wounded Marine who is home and hospitalized receives at least 100 cards and letters.

Ms. Flowers said she looks forward to the group's monthly meeting to share stories with fellow parents.

"I feel like I've made some lifelong friends, and I just enjoy sharing with them news about our sons who are either deployed or about to come home," she said. "We celebrate each other's homecomings as if it were our own sons' homecomings."