Local soldiers family filled with pride

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Thousands of miles from home and in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, LaQuan Chambers sits at his post as an air traffic controller aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Chamber, or "Quan" as he's known by family, friends and former classmates of Andalusia High School, is in a war zone - part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It's not something he asked for, but it is something he always new was a possibility.

Quan's wife, Shannah, also an Andalusia High School graduate, from their home in Norfolk, Va., said she and Quan new this sort of thing could happen.

"Both of us always new this was a possibility," Shannah said. "We have always been prepared for anything."

But despite their preparedness, Shannah said it's still difficult.

"It's tough on me," she said. "I don't have any family here - they're all in Andalusia. But at the same time, there are others here in Norfolk in the same situation."

Quan's mother, Monica Chambers share those feelings.

"I have mixed feelings about him being there," Monica said. "But, as long as he's OK, then I'm OK. It just makes me really proud to know that he's part of a cause to bring freedom to others, and fulfill his dream."

That dream - Monica says - was to join the Navy.

"Since he was in the ninth grade, all he'd talk about was joining the Navy," she said. "And if he's happy with it, then I'm happy with it."

With Quan stationed aboard the Roosevelt, both Monica and Shannah said they are glad he's on a ship and not on land.

"I definitely prefer him being on a ship than on the ground," Shannah said. "It puts my mind at ease a little, knowing he's in a somewhat safer environment."

Monica, however, still has fears.

"In some ways, I do feel better that he's on board a ship," Monica said. "Sometimes, I find myself praying for the troops, and realize he's in a better situation than a lot of the others, but at the same time, I think about the USS Cole."

Shannah's mother, Alma Pitts, also keeps Quan on her mind, but, she has another soldier she keeps on her mind as well.

Pitts has a godson, C.C. Matthews - a member of the US Air Force from Red Level, who is on the ground, somewhere inside Iraq.

"It gets nerve racking at times," Alma said. "I haven't heard from C.C. in three months. All I know is he's doing something very special for his country and the Iraqi citizens. That makes me proud."

Alma is also concerned for Shannah.

"I'm down here, but we communicate every night," she said. "I give her all the emotional support I can."

All three ladies said they have mixed emotions about the war, but understand it's all part of the job Quan and C.C. signed up for.

"I'm not really for the war," Shannah said. "We have problems at home that need to be addressed first, but we above all, we must support our troops. Once and a while, they get to see the news coverage, and the protests, and that isn't good for their morale. They need the positive images and support."

"I have a lot of mixed emotions about the war," Alma said. "It's scary, but knowing they are fighting to give other people freedom is a good feeling. It makes me more aware of the things we have taken for granted for a long time."

"I understand why Quan's there," Monica said. "He understands it, and the troops understand it. I think as long as that's the case, everything will be OK."

Communication and support are a big issue with all three ladies, and each of them said the ability to stay in touch has made life a little easier.

"We email each other as often as we can," Shannah said. "Plus, the Navy did set up a teleconference a few weeks ago so families could see and talk with each other over the television. It was like we were sitting in front of each other, only we knew it was thousands of miles apart."

"We all communicate with each other as much as we can," Alma said. "Email is a wonderful thing, and we all do our best to stay in touch."

"I missed his telephone call Saturday," Monica said. "But, he got to talk to his sister and grandmother. They said he seemed to be doing good, and that was a big relief."

As for how the three said friends of C.C. and Quan can help, they all agreed prayer was at the top of the list.

"We just ask everyone to keep praying for not just these two, but for all of the troops," Alma said. "Every single soldier needs to know we support them, and prayer is a powerful thing."

Shannah added that letters and care packages are a great way to show support to the troops, but with the halt of many programs, things are different. In fact, Shannah said she, other spouses and the troops weren't aware of the halt of the sending of care packages to anonymous troops.

"I'm constantly hearing that they're needing razors, deodorant, toothpaste - the staples," she said. "Since you can't just send to anonymous troops anymore, I think it would be great to include in a care package to a soldier you know about, a letter and a few extra items to be shared among the other soldiers. That might help make sure that all of the soldiers were taken care of."

Monica shared that sentiment.

"I always send a little extra in Quan's care packages," she said. "I make sure and include things I know he doesn't like so he'll share with the other sailors."

Chambers isn't alone on the Roosevelt though. Another member of the Andalusia High School class of 1993 is aboard ship with him, Dell Lawrence, although the two have yet to be able to spend a lot of time together.

"Dell and Quan have seen each other once since Dell arrived aboard the Roosevelt," Shannah said. "It's a ship with more than 5,000 people - basically, it's a floating town, and the hours they work, they haven't had time to see each other and talk."