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Iraq as Seen by War Wife Turned War Mom

Patti Correa

Patti Correa doesn't usually shout at work, but she did Friday after reading that all American troops would leave Iraq by year's end.

"There's always been talk of it," Correa said later by phone. "For it to actually be real, though, it's pretty amazing."

The war, which will have lasted nearly nine years, has claimed the lives of more than 4,400 U.S. military members and civilians. Tens of thousands more have been injured.

It also caused strains back home, where divorce and suicide rates climbed among military members, particularly the Army.

The instability led Correa, whose husband and son both served in the Army, on a path that included writing a book, appearing on national television and organizing a nonprofit that supports military families.

"It was rewarding, just being around other military family members -- the mothers -- it was really a comfort," she said.

The journey began in April 2003, roughly a month after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq under the belief that the nation had weapons of mass destruction. Correa's husband, Ed, deployed with nearly 200 Soldiers from Fort Eustis.

At the time, Correa wore two watches. One kept time in Virginia, the other in Iraq.

"That way I always know, without having to do all kinds of calculations, when he's sleeping and when he's awake," she said minutes before Ed boarded a bus en route to Baghdad.

Correa was left at home in Newport News with the couple's then-teenage son, Kyle. The following year she wrote and released a book called "From a Pebble to a Rock: Life Stories from the Homefront to Encourage the Hearts of Every Woman."

Its release coincided with a spike in violence in Iraq. Insurgency groups battled U.S. troops in Fallujah, Mosul and other hot spots as images of burned corpses hanging over a bridge on the Euphrates River appeared on television.

Correa, who was working full time at a local bank, appeared on CNN's "American Morning" to talk about her book and the stress that military families face.

Ed retired in November 2007 after serving 22 years. That same month, Kyle enlisted in the Army.

By then, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been tried and executed, but the insurgency continued to simmer. President George W. Bush ordered an increase in troops that helped quell violence, which eventually pivoted to Afghanistan, the country Kyle would be stationed in.

The transition from being a war wife to a war mother was the most difficult situation Correa faced in nearly 30 years of military life. It led her to form a Hampton Roads chapter of Blue Star Families, a support organization that dates back to War World II.

She led the group for three years until August. She gave up the post because Kyle, after serving his tour of duty, returned to civilian life.

Correa said she will remain active supporting the military and looks forward to seeing the end of the Afghanistan war.

"It's one down and another one to go," she said.

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