They got him! Saddam Hussein has been captured! Shirley Jeffers is extremely happy about it because her son is in the middle of the war in Mosul, Iraq. Cpl. Ray Geise, with the U.S. Army assigned to the 101st Airborne Light Infantry, A Company, was flown to Kuwait in March, 2003.
Shortly thereafter, some of the soldiers moved on ground or were air dropped into Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. As soon as the Baghdad airport was secured, troops were moved around and Geise ended up in Mosul. With his unit, the 327th, Geise remains in the northern Iraqi city today.
Shirley, the administrator at Intrepid Home Health Care in Brazil, said it's been a long trip from Brazil to Mosul for her 24-year-old son.
"Raymond was generally a good kid," she said. "But he always challenged authority. Sometimes you can get tagged with a label in school that you can't overcome. Raymond was tagged as rebellious. He attended Northview High School but graduated from the Alternative School in 1997."
According to Shirley, an Alternative School teacher was instrumental in turning Geise around. "The classes were smaller and the teacher could spend more time with Raymond," She explained.
"He went in with poor grades, didn't care about school or see the importance it would have on his life as an adult. That teacher helped Raymond see school from a different perspective. The whole interpersonal relationship was a positive thing for him."
Geise joined the Army in 1999. He was trained in combat infantry in Georgia. In March, 2003, his unit was deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky., to Iraq where they've been involved in many missions and military skirmishes.
Communication is important to help allay the fears of family back home. Shirley is unable to call her son so he tries to phone her about every two weeks when possible. Regular mail can take 15 days or more and sometimes never gets through. Shirley said she now has the ability to send him e-mail.
While the infrequent contact has helped sustain his mother's maternal concerns, the separation took a toll on Geise's already unstable marriage. He and his wife recently filed for divorce.
While much of Geise's activities in Mosul is classified information, he tells his mother what he can. He was home on leave in October visiting with his parents and sister, Christy Geise.
"I needed a mental picture of him over there," Shirley said. "I asked him, what do you do? He answered by telling us what his commanding officer had conveyed to them. They were told they would canvas the area until they encountered the enemy, until they met resistance."
Shirley sat quietly for a short time, concern showing in her face. "Their focus, now, is on trying to train and establish an Iraqi police force."
The 101st Airborne has had a lot of confrontations since entering Iraq. Yesterday Shirley talked with one of her son's friends who was in Iraq and came home in August. He talked about the feelings the troops must be feeling about Saddam's capture. Shirley shared some of the stories her son has told her and some comments from his friend.
Tomorrow: What life is like in Iraq and Shirley's reaction to the capture.