For most, it’s business as usual despite Iraq war |

For most, it’s business as usual despite Iraq war

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Even though President Bush ordered the start of a war against Iraq Wednesday night, Thursday didn’t look much different from any workday in Glenwood Springs. Pedestrians tended to their errands along Grand Avenue, motorists filled their vehicles with gas, and school campuses bustled with activity.

H.J. Chee of The Pit Stop in Glenwood Springs was part of the workforce Thursday, but the day felt far from business as usual for him. Chee’s 24-year-old son, Brian, a Glenwood Springs High School graduate, is a lance corporal with the U.S. Marines. The last time H.J. and his wife Carmen heard from their son, he was in Kuwait, about 20 miles from the Iraq border. Chee now figures his son is very near or in Iraq, living in trenches with fellow Marines.

“The last time he called, he said, `This may be my last call for a while,'” Chee said.

For the Chees, Bush’s announcement of the war Wednesday night hit hard.

“We had CNN on,” he said. “We’re watching it every moment. We were hoping and praying up until the last minute Saddam Hussein would go into exile, but that didn’t happen. So now we are trying to think positively, and are hoping and praying the president and the generals are making the right decisions.”

Chee said it’s been a difficult week or so leading up to the war. Chee, who turned 50 March 15, was debating whether to cancel his birthday party because of his concern over his son, but decided to go ahead with plans.

“We struggled, and we asked our church pastor before the party started to lead us in a prayer to protect our soldiers and our son,” he said.

And Saturday, as Chee was hiking down from Doc Holliday’s grave above Glenwood, he saw the peace marchers making their way down Grand Avenue.

“I saw the protesters going by,” he said, “and it hurt. As a father, our son is in harm’s way because he’s protecting our right to have political differences in this country. We’re free to express our differences here, but in Iraq, they cut your tongue out or gouge out your eyes. Nobody wants war. We pray that God protects Brian.”

At Glenwood Springs High School, principal Mike Wells reported it was “business as usual.” He said that there wasn’t much talk about the war except in a junior social studies class.

“They were having a pretty heated discussion about whether or not to go to war, but they’ve been doing that for the past six weeks,” Wells said.

At Glenwood Travel King, the television was tuned to Dan Rather reporting on the Iraqi conflict, but agency owner Hunter Antonides said the TV was on to track Denver’s blizzard and not to check on the war.

“It’s Spring Break,” said Antonides, “and we’ve got a lot of people affected by this storm. There are more than 4,000 people stranded at DIA.”

Antonides said that because the possibility of war has been “building up for the past month and a half or so,” his travel business has been flat.

“People are afraid,” he said. “Generally, there’s a wait-and-see attitude. But now is the time to travel. The deals are really out there. And security is better than ever. You’re more likely to be hit by a car on Grand Avenue than be a victim of a terrorist attack.”

It was deserted at the U.S. Army and Navy recruiting office in south Glenwood Springs Thursday morning. Wade Hampton, a 21-year-old living in Gypsum, was the only person visiting Naval recruiter Ken Alley.

“I’ve been planning to join the Navy before the war broke out,” said Hampton quietly.

Other businesses around town seemed unfazed by the war. At E-Tech, a cellular phone store downtown, the television was tuned to MSNBC, but the mood in the store was relaxed.

“I’m more concerned about this virus than the war,” said Bill Challis, the Internet administrator for Crimson Wireless, of a mystery flu-like illness making its way to the United States.

And staff at both The Software Store and Roaring Fork Liquors in south Glenwood Springs said neither customers nor fellow employees had even mentioned the war on Thursday.

“It’s not like Vietnam,” said Glenwood High principal Mike Wells. “What we see now on TV is somewhat antiseptic, somewhat unreal. I think people are thinking about it, but it’s not foremost on most people’s minds.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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