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Soldier Girl helping win Iraqi freedom

Friday, November 19, 2004

A1C Jill Owen carried an M 16 rifle while on duty at an Air Force base in Japan last July. Submitted photo

The war in Iraq seems to be getting closer to home. As the war continues, more Clay Countians in the military are ending up in that religion-fueled, terrorist-driven, political battlefield.

When young people join the armed forces, they understand the possibility exists that they could be sent to a war zone. While not all soldiers volunteer for such deployment, most are proud to serve their country in whatever capacity asked of them, even if that means going into combat. Jill Owen is one of those soldiers.

The daughter of Jane and Jim Frye from Brazil and Tom and Donna Owen of Carbon, the 1999 Northview High School graduate acquired an Associate Degree in Conservation Law Enforcement in 2001. She worked while going to college to pay for her education.

Unable to find employment in that field, Jill worked as a correctional officer at the Indiana Youth Center in Plainfield. The adventuresome young lady wanted to see the world but also wanted to continue her education. Knowing that the military would give her an opportunity to do both, Jill joined the U.S. Air Force Nov. 23, 2003.

She was partly influenced to join the Air Force by her family history. She comes from a long line of military service. Her grandfathers, dad and several uncles were in various branches of the armed forces. Her mother was the first female to join the Army National Guard in Brazil in 1974.

Jane Frye recently talked about her daughter's military experience, Jill's recent deployment to Iraq and how a mother handles the worry and stress of having a child at war.

Basic training for Jill was done at Lackland AF Base in San Antonio, Texas. Security Forces, the Air Force's version of the military police, was Jill's first career choice.

Sent to Korea in July for two weeks of additional training, Jill realized it truly is a small world when she ran into Nick Girton. She was totally surprised when she learned that her old high school classmate and friend was also in the Security Forces in the Air Force and he just happened to be in Korea at that time. Being able to visit with Nick made Jill's Korean experience more enjoyable.

She was sent to her home base of Masawa AFB in Japan in April then was sent to Kuwait Sept. 5. There she quickly learned that most Middle Eastern men have no respect for women.

Jane said from all reports she's read about the Mideast, a woman's only reason to exist is for breeding purposes and male homosexuality is prevalent. There is a bounty on women, especially Americans. If captured they would become virtual slaves. The women are simply objects of possession and are used for bartering with no local laws to protect them.

For security reasons, the American Airmen are not allowed off base unless on a mission. On one such mission, Jill's military vehicle had a flat tire and the spare, too, was flat.

After they radioed back to camp, Jill and the two Airmen with her had to wait 2 1/2 hours for a tire to be brought out to them.

"She said that was the scariest 2 1/2 hours of her life," Jane said. "They were in a war zone not far from the Iraqi border."

Jill was home for two weeks in late September for emergency medical leave. Her father had a tumor on his spinal chord requiring surgery at Methodist Hospital.

On her return to Kuwait, Jill was told they would be going to Iraq in December. With very short notice the deployment was expedited and Jill spent her 24th birthday, Nov. 8, in Iraq.

Jane discussed the constant worry and stress from having a child in a military war zone.

"I couldn't make it without my husband," Jane said. "He can make me laugh. The stress is unimaginable. I just try to keep busy and keep going. Getting phone calls and e-mails from Jill helps a lot. I don't let myself dwell on the dangers. And I pray a lot.

"This has brought me closer to God," Jane continued. "I feel like God is protecting her and I feel she will come home safely."

Jane deals with lots of emotions, even guilt.

"Jill loves my spaghetti," she said. "I feel guilty when I have spaghetti because she can't have any. And the food's not good there."

Asked about her thoughts on the recent presidential election, it was obvious Jane had given it much thought.

"I was undecided right up till I went to the polls," Jane said. "I went with the old saying, 'Don't change horses in the middle of the stream.' So I went with Bush...

"You don't realize how wonderful it is to be an American citizen until you're not on American soil. People just don't realize how good we've got it... Jill is proud of her work and she's committed to helping her country."

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