Yellow ribbons proclaim support

Published 7:58 am Thursday, March 27, 2003

Julia Spain of Washington carefully unfolds two letters she keeps in her desk drawer at work.
She offers to copy them, and places them tenderly on the machine.
They're American documents. And they tell a story.
There are several pages here -- small pages, more like little notes; precisely written. The tiny characters could be mistaken for typescript, but they're not.
They're hand-written, from a soldier to his mother.
The author is Jed Spain, a private second class with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in the hostile desert of Iraq.
Then she clears her throat a bit and steadies her voice.
She seems determined not to cry.
She is worried, though. She's stopped watching 24-hour television coverage of the war. Friends call when major developments are broadcast.
Sure, she'd watch at first, but she'd end up watching all night. She had to sleep; get up early.
Jed's letters help.
She just received one dated March 8, postmarked March 15.
In the letter, Julia learns that military mail can be slow. She's been sending letters or packages every week, but Jed hasn't gotten everything.
He pens lines about letters he has gotten. The dog, Pretty, "is pregnant again. I wonder how many puppies she will have this time."
He writes of home.
Jed decided to join the military after he was laid off from PCS Phosphate in Aurora, his mother says. He lost his job after Sept. 11, 2001. He still lived with his mother at the time.
Jed first entered the Navy, the branch of his brother, David. When he found he would be assigned to a submarine, he figured his 6 feet, 6 inches and 300 pounds would be incompatible with small spaces.
So Jed switched to the Army. He finished basic training with honors.
Jed was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. His division was deployed on June 6. Original orders called for the troops to be away six months.
On Feb. 10, he moved to the Kuwait-Iraq border. He may be near Baghdad now.
His mother isn't sure where her son is. She waits, along with thousands of other mothers, fathers, families and friends.
Julia's doing what she can to honor her son until he gets home.
Stanadyne Corp., the automotive parts company she works for, recently ordered 700 pin-on yellow ribbons made by the blind and visually impaired at the Blind Center in Washington.
The center's clients looped the ribbons through fasteners and helped package them for sale, said Dottie Walker, the center's director.
The company gave the ribbons to employees in Washington and Jacksonville, and put up a banner on the fence off Clark's Neck Road, proclaiming support for the troops.
That support is vital, according to Julia, who thinks some of the protesters' messages have reached the troops overseas.
Protests or not, Jed was ready to go, even before the shooting started in earnest.