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Parents gather at Shiawassee County picnic to share thoughts about their sons and daughters in the military

SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Michigan-- Their bond is strong yet before Saturday many did not know what one another looked like or even what their last names were.

http://www.mlive.com/flintjournal/index.ssf/2008/09/parents_gather_at_shiawassee_c.html

by David Harris | The Flint Journal
Saturday September 13, 2008, 8:00 PM

For the first time, parents who post on the online forum marineparents.com found out what the person behind the screen name actually looked like at a picnic in Byron.

Cindy McCormick of Byron hosted a potluck on Saturday at her home for parents from throughout Michigan who have children in the Marines. About 60 people were expected to attend the event.

The idea came about after parents talked on their message board about finally getting together in person. McCormick's place was chosen because of its central location; attendees were expected to come from Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and even Ohio.

They brought a dish to pass, their son or daughter's picture and stories about the Marines.

The Web site is for parents who have children in the military to post updates and feelings about their sons and daughters.

"There's great camaraderie," McCormick said. "Just being able to meet some people online who you have never seen before is special."

Her son, Steven McCormick, 20, is stationed in California and has not been deployed overseas yet. She said associating with fellow Marine parents through the Web site helped when her son was in boot camp.

The parents discussed what their sons were doing and how they were and help each other through hard times, McCormick said.

"Anytime someone is going through the same thing you are, it helps you," McCormick said. "There is an extreme amount of worry if your child is in the military."

Mike Williams, 55, was expected to come to the picnic from Findlay, Ohio. His son, Jesse, made two tours to Iraq, the last in 2005.

Mike Williams uses humor on the site to help people through hard times.

"I'll be glad to be as outrageous as they allow me," he said Friday.

Williams said he helps fellow parents who are going through the same thing he was when his son was deployed.

"They know that I've been up all night in full-blown tears," he said.

Enid Benedict of Grand Blanc did not attend the picnic, but is a frequent poster on the Web site and a friend of McCormick's.

She said the Web site and picnic are important because they provide support to parents.

"It brings parents together," said Benedict, whose son, Orlando, 20, returned from Iraq last month.

"It allows many of them to meet each other for the first time. We do not know practically any of them, just know them through online."