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Andalusia marine readies for war

Within the next few weeks, Andalusia may well be sending off another of its finest to fight in the war against Saddam Hussein. Cpl. Jason Locklier, the son of Mary and Billy Locklier, received word recently that his Marine Reserves unit had been called up.

"He actually received his orders on March 5," said his mother, the administrative assistant for the Covington County Probation office. "He'd had a feeling it was coming."

A 1997 graduate of Andalusia High School, Jason had been living in Birmingham where he shared an apartment with his sister, Lorie, while he worked at Home Depot during the day and took classes at Jefferson College at night.

"Jason is working toward a degree in psychology and criminal justice," said his mother, adding that he is interested in career involving criminal psychology, such as profiling.

The news that her only son may be going to war has been hard or her, and for the rest of the family. Lorie has moved into a smaller apartment, and is having to cope without her beloved brother around for company. Mary and Billy are dealing with the mixture of fear and pride that so many parents are feeling now, as their sons and daughters head for the Middle East.

"Being parents, we are saddened by the fact that our son would have to go to war, but we truly believe Saddam has to go," said Mary. "We support our son because he is doing what he has to do."

An offensive lineman when he played for the Andalusia High School Bulldogs, Jason enjoys challenges, and saw the Marine Corps as yet another challenge. Two days after graduation, he was at Parris Island for basic training and then went into the Marine Reserves.

Mary believes the Corps has done an excellent job preparing Jason, and the other Marines, for the conflict they may soon see.

"He's ready to go," she said. "He's a Marine, he's confident and he's well-trained. He's wanting to go over there and help his fellow Marines."

Jason hasn't left the United States yet - at least, not that Mary knows. She writes him every day and he is allowed to call her on his cell phone when he isn't in training at 29 Palms, in the Mojave Desert in California.

"The Corps is real good about notifying families," said Mary. "They keep you very well informed. If Jason was to leave and couldn't call, they'll let us know. But I feel Jason would be able to let us know."

According to one newsletter released by Jason's Commander, the unit will be joining the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force - their parent company - which is already established in Iraq. Mary admits, however, that the destination could change at any moment.

The family has great faith in Jason and the role he will play, no matter where he ends up.

"Jason is highly motivated and very professional. He uses good judgment and we feel he's received the best training," said Mary. "I feel God's in command and he has a plan. We pray daily that his will be done and that all our soldiers be taken care of."

A member of Southside Baptist Church, Mary is trying to share some of that faith by gathering the addresses of local soldiers who have been deployed overseas. She hopes to send them care packages and letters - just like the ones Jason has already received.

"He's been flooded with letters and cards and he loves every one he gets," she said.

She said that if anyone has a name they would like to add to the list, the can bring it by the probation and parole office in the County Courthouse, or call her at home, 222-3673.

The fact that so far, most of the U.S. casualties have been Marines does cause some concern, especially since Jason's unit, 3rd battalion, 23rd Marines, 2nd platoon Lima Company, are "the foot soldiers," as Mary puts it.

"They pound the dirt," she said.

Her concerns, of course, extend to all those who are serving now.

"It's hard for us, but let me say this - we are very concerned about all of those who are lost. Freedom's not cheap. It's usually paid for with the ultimate sacrifice."