By LINDA MESSMER
Almost everyone has something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving day. Debbie Mustard has more than most to be thankful for.
Her husband, Ralph Mustard, son, Shawn Coleman and son-in-law, Reynolds Batchelor all survived vehicular accidents this year. Another son, Chris Coleman and a nephew, Noah Tretter, had a tour of duty in Iraq and came home safely.
Debbie and her family recently discussed the events that have occurred that could have ended tragically.
The new year was still in its infancy when Debbie's younger son was sent to Iraq on Feb. 11, 2003. E2 Combat Engineer Chris Coleman had been in the U.S. Marines Corps since September of 2000 but this was his first deployment to a combat zone.
"I was a basket case," Debbie said. "I'm a worrier. There was no contact at all. The not knowing, it was tough. My nephew, Sgt. Noah Tretter, was also over there. We'd watch MSNBC constantly. They'd come across the TV saying local troops had died. Of course, I worried that it was one of my family.
"I stayed glued to the TV, waiting to see where the troops were from. When they named the casualties, I was so relieved it wasn't my family but still very upset for the families involved.
Debbie said that she had a lot of resentment for the American troops being there. She thinks they should all be sent home because Iraq does not want us there.
Her daughter Mandy Batchelor agrees with her mother.
"Let them do what they need to do and send them home," Mandy said.
Chris and Noah both returned home safely. They're currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., awaiting orders.
While everyone was still worrying about Chris and Noah, before their return home, Mandy's husband, Reynolds Batchelor Jr., was involved in a motorcycle accident.
The wreck occurred as Reynolds participated in a motorcycle poker run which is a fundraiser for a cancer benefit. The cyclists drive around to different, designated locations and pull a card and the high hand wins.
Reynolds was in Owen County on S.R. 42 just outside of Poland when the accident happened about 5:15 p.m. Mandy, who works at Fiesta Hair and Tanning Salon in Brazil, had left that morning for a company banquet in Columbus, Ohio. The State Police were finally able to contact her around 10:30 p.m. to tell her about her husband's wreck.
"I was terrified," Mandy said recalling that tragic night. "I was four hours away. I knew he wasn't wearing a helmet. I got to the hospital at two in the morning."
Reynolds had a broken left ankle which required the insertion of a metal plate. He still has a limp but miraculously, he received no internal or head injuries.
"When I found out he was alive and the injuries weren't life threatening, I just said, thank God he's not dead," Mandy said.
Cindy Wallen, a step-cousin to Mandy and the manager at Fiesta, was with her in Ohio the night of Reynolds' accident. "That's our mantra this year," Cindy said. "There but for the grace of God."
The family didn't have time to recover from one incidence before another occurred. In July Debbie's husband Ralph, was on S.R. 59 N. in the semi tractor trailer her drives for Timberland.
He suddenly saw a lady in a Ford Ranger pick-up coming straight at him.
"I laid on the horn," Ralph said. "She finally saw me and tried to swerve but she sideswiped the side of my truck."
The lady is severely allergic to bees and was distracted when a bee got in her car. She received a broken arm. Ralph was uninjured.
Debbie, who works at the court house, was told about Ralph's wreck by one of the commissioners.
"He wanted me to know that Ralph was OK before I heard just pieces of information. I thanked God he was all right," Debbie continued, "but I was thinking, how much more can a person stand?"
There was more yet to come.
Tomorrow: Debbie must deal with another tragedy.