Published 8:59 am Sunday, March 30, 2003

By By BILL SANDIFER, Staff Writer
Norleen and V.P. Brinson Jr. of Washington suffered quite a scare last Thursday when a Marine CH-46 helicopter crashed on the Iraq/Kuwait border, killing four U.S. and 12 British soldiers.
The Brinsons' son, Maj. V.P. Brinson III, who was deployed to Iraq on Jan. 6, is a Marine CH-46 helicopter pilot.
Norleen Brinson said she camped by the television all night, awaiting news. "I didn't rest a lot," she said.
By midday March 21, she received word that her son was all right. "I kinda felt in my heart it wasn't him," she said, expressing sorrow for the troops who died in the crash.
A subsequent e-mail from her son said, "'I'm fine, and everything here is fine. Stop watching TV.'"
And that's what she has done. "You don't know what to believe and what not to believe," said Brinson.
Her son, she said, has been enamored with military flight since he was a boy, when she took him to see a flying demonstration by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels precision aircraft team.
Joining the Marines in the mid-1980s, Brinson worked his way from enlisted soldier to officer, training as a helicopter pilot.
Even though her husband was a Marine, Brinson said he's having a hard time dealing with his son's flying a helicopter in a war. Being a Marine is one thing, she said, but being a Marine in a war is another.
000200000341000005F033B,"The fighting kinda makes your stomach jump," said Brinson. "It's a different ballgame. Over there, you know people are shooting back."
Brinson's son, who was not involved in Desert Storm in 1991, had a desk assignment prior to his deployment. Brinson said he was very unhappy with the job that, with only five years left till retirement: "If he had to continue to sit behind a desk, he'd just get out of the military."
He had told her before the war, "'If I had my choice, I'd be deployed all the time.'"
Although a shooting war might not have been his first choice, she said, "He's not behind a desk anymore. … He's certainly getting to fly."
Before her son's deployment to Iraq, Brinson said she was anticipating as much. "We pretty much knew. All the news started breaking … and we knew that was where he'd be going."
0002000005240000092B51E,She said having a son-in-law in Afghanistan at the same time last year gave her some notion of how to cope with conflict.
Through e-mail and one phone conversation on March 16, Brinson has felt some consolation, but she has heard no details of where her son is or what he's doing right now, part of military policy. She did, however, receive pictures of her son and a helicopter squadron.
Although she describes his e-mails as "upbeat," she said, if something were wrong, he would never let on. "But he's gonna be all right," she added.
Brinson shared one of the e-mails her son had sent her: "Hi, All is well over here. Very Busy. If you were watching Fox a day or so ago and saw some 46's picking up troops between some warehouses, then you saw me. I was in the lead aircraft. All is well. Gotta run. Maj. V.P. Brinson III."