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With son in Iraq as an Army scout, family finds comfort in CNN coverage

DECATUR, Ala. (BP)–It’s sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. After hearing the latest report on Operation Iraqi Freedom from CNN reporter Walter Rodgers, Karen Chenault turns off the television and goes to bed, comforted by the news that there is no bad news.

Chenault, a member of Central Park Baptist Church in Decatur, Ala., said that since the bombing of Iraq began the night of March 19, she automatically wakes up at 2 a.m. and watches television just long enough to hear the latest news. She is concerned about her son, Nathaniel Goodwin, who is a scout in the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry, 3rd Squadron. Rodgers is a CNN reporter embedded with this unit, which is part of the larger 3rd Infantry that made some of the first inroads into Iraqi territory.

“That first night [CNN] said something about the 7th Cavalry, so I guess my brain thinks a report will be at that time every night,” Karen said. “Most of the time they will tell something about them.” She added that watching the coverage of the war helps her feel connected to her son. “I would not have known Nathaniel was in Iraq if not for the television coverage,” she said.

Her husband, Myron Chenault, agreed, saying he wants to know as much as possible about his stepson.

“There’s a lot of things I’ve taught him just by being around him 15 years, so part of me is with him,” he said. “He’s no different from [my biological son] William being over there.”

Since Nathaniel is a scout, the Chenaults know seeing him on television coverage is unlikely. However, Karen caught a glimpse of Nathaniel resting against a truck during CNN coverage one morning.

“It was just a present from God that He knew I needed,” she said. “I was about to send Nathaniel a care package, so I wrote him a note saying, ‘You looked really dirty and tired, but to me you were just as pretty as can be.'”

Although they are eager to hear news reports, the couple said they do limit the amount of TV they watch, especially the amount that Nathaniel’s younger brother William and sister Olivia see. “I don’t think it’s good for any young person to just sit and watch the war,” Karen said.

However, Chenault said she turned on the television in her daughter’s room and was surprised to see that it was on CNN. “I was floored. She never watches CNN.”

Watching with the family is their church. Pastor Craig Carlisle said having Nathaniel, who is the only member of the church serving in the military, actively involved in the war has heightened the church’s awareness of the reality of the war.

“It’s one of our own, and there’s a reporter with the unit. It definitely makes me pay more attention to the coverage,” Carlisle said.

Church member and World War II veteran James Lowery said he watches the coverage to keep up with what is happening, but that too much could be demoralizing. “I hate to see things like the helicopters that have crashed, and [I] dread and dislike what’s being done to the POWs,” he said prior to their April 13 release. “If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t have that dread.”

The Chenaults experienced that dread firsthand when they heard Nathaniel’s unit mentioned among reports of four Army scouts who had been killed. Myron said they had to turn off the television until enough time had passed for the reports to be verified, and it was known that a different unit was involved.

Both said that it is their faith in God that helps them through those moments of dread, as well as the support they receive from the church. At the March 26 Wednesday night prayer meeting, Central Park minister of education and outreach Ken Bush led a prayer for the service members and their families as church members gathered around the Chenaults and others who had relatives in active duty. “We want to do something each week to support the military,” Bush said. “Tonight I wanted us to focus on the [personnel] that are there and their families.”

Carlisle agreed that prayer is one of the main ways the church has shown its support. The focus on prayer also has impacted the church itself. “We have become aware of the need for prayer for our leaders even in peacetime,” he said.

Even Central Park’s first-grade Sunday School class is learning about prayer and how to pray by praying for Nathaniel, Karen said. She added that it has greatly encouraged the family when others share with them that they are praying for them. “We are very thankful for the support of our church family and friends,” she said.

Myron Chenault said experiencing the prayer support of the church has shown him the need to pray for other people, too, and how much that can mean to someone.

Prayer is not the only way Central Park and other churches are supporting service members and their families. Several church members are writing and sending care packages to specific personnel.

Some associations and churches, such as Alabama’s Fayette Baptist Association, are organizing and participating in communitywide send-offs for National Guard and Reserve units. Others, like Etowah Baptist Association, are holding marches and prayer rallies.

However support is shown, it is essential for these families. “I appreciate the fact that people are remembering the families of soldiers,” Karen Chenault said.

“We’re not going through what [the soldiers] are, but it’s hard to see my baby over there. I worry about if he’s getting enough rest and good food. It helps me to know my church family is praying for me.”
Story courtesy of The Alabama Baptist. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ARMY SCOUT’S PARENTS.

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  • Erin Webster