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Anxious hearts, yellow ribbons and a far away war

Pass by the Bouchers’ Marion Avenue home there’s no doubt where their hearts are.

Thousands of yellow ribbons hang from a chainlink fence. Each tiny band makes tangible the endless thoughts and prayers for a soldier’s safe return.

From the front porch hangs a Marine Corps flag that only begins to describe the family’s pride for Lance Cpl. Heber Green — son, husband, father and a brother.

“I miss him like crazy, but I can’t help but be proud of him,” said Heather his wife of eight months. She and son Wyatt, 3, left their California home Monday to be with Green’s parents Jo and Bill Boucher in Bremerton.

Green, who turned 21 on March 11, was deployed to the Middle East Jan. 28 — exactly one year after he enlisted. He has since joined fighting forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I cried and worried,” said Jo Boucher when she learned her son was Kuwait bound. “It’s something you don’t think you’ll ever be faced with.”

Meanwhile, Tamara Gilson of Bremerton is faced with the same reality. Her oldest son Jason, 22, is a corporal with the Marines serving with the 35th weapons company in Iraq.

“At six years old he said he was going to be a Marine,” Gilson said.

Gilson is organizing a Support the Troops rally in Silverdale today to let the soldiers know their duty and sacrifice is appreciated.

Gilson crossed paths with the Bouchers after she saw their fence. When she knocked on the door she learned something else — her son and Green were serving side by side.

Green serves with the 34th weapons company with the 4th Marine Division.

“He’s wanted to be in the Marines since he was Wyatt’s age,” Heather said.

Green was born and raised in Bremerton. He and Heather were high school sweethearts.

While in Kuwait, Green wrote letters home. The last arrived the day the war started. One of the letters stated, “Thank you for your support while I am here in Kuwait, soon Iraq. It’s a comfort knowing that all care and it makes me feel good inside, all warm and cuddly.”

Another described the sandstorms and general atmosphere waiting for war.

“It’s weird being over here,” Green wrote. “I can’t really explain it. Your rifle never leaves your sight, just like your gas mask.”

The war started and the letters stopped. The family joined thousands of others whose loved ones are on an unknown battlefield.

“I don’t like the not knowing where he is,” Heather said.

She made a sign, one she will carry at the rally Saturday, with Green’s picture. A reporter snapped the photo Feb. 26 and sent it to Heather. The journalist also let Green use their cell phone to wish her happy birthday.

But now with battles raging, “No news is good news,” Bill said.

The family has reduced their TV viewing. When the first blasts hit Baghdad, Jo said they watched war coverage around the clock, but their health suffered.

“Now we just kind of watch it here and there and when they mention casualties, my heart just jumps,” Jo said.

Gilson shared the same concerns, because the military is like a family.

“When one of our boys gets hurt or dies, we all feel it,” she said.

She hopes the rally scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Kitsap Mall/East Bremerton 303 overpass on SR 3, will help not only people here, but boost morale for the soldiers in the war zone.

“It means a lot to these boys,” she said.

The Bouchers’ show of support has caused people to put letters in the mail box and tie more ribbons to the fence. A hundred have been added since Wednesday.

“It’s the simple things that are going to be helpful,” said Jo of getting through tough times.

“We also have to remember our worst day is better than his best day,” Bill added.

Bill said support from his co-workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and from the overall community is astounding.

Jo, a bus driver for the Central Kitsap School District, has mixed feelings on the situation.

“I’m happy for him getting to do what he’s wanted to do for most of his life, but your mommy heartstrings kick in and you want him here,” she said.

As soon as Green returns from war, the family is going to host one of their legendary bonfires with music, relatives, and the works.

Gilson hopes there will be a community rally when the soldiers return.

“I’m really proud of our military and my son,” she said.

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