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Congressman with military ties backs Iraq war

Published Sunday, February 15, 2004 in The Island Packet  |  876 Words  |  /IslandPacket/news/local

WASHINGTON -- When Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., stood on the House floor back in the fall of 2002 before a vote to authorize force in Iraq, he'd already run through a list of what ifs.'
He was a member of the S.C. National Guard at the time. So was his oldest son, Alan. His second son, Add, now 25, was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Son Julian, 21, was an Army ROTC cadet at Clemson University. Only Hunter, 16, had no military ties.'
What if he himself were deployed to Iraq? '
What if his sons were deployed? '
Wilson had an affirmative response for each question. Then he gave his approval to the military campaign.'
"To me, we have a clear choice," Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said during a recent interview. "We could either resist the terrorists overseas or we will face them here in the United States."'
For Wilson, the war has moved to the doorstep of his home in Lexington County.'
Alan Wilson, 30, a captain in the S.C. National Guard, is expected to leave for Iraq this week. His nearly 300-member reserve unit from Lancaster will spend up to a year performing support missions like military policing. The unit is currently at Fort Stewart in Georgia.'
"We are 99 percent happy and proud and 1 percent concerned," said Wilson, 56, speaking for himself and his wife, Roxanne.'
As he spoke from his office on Capitol Hill, the blue star pin given to parents of military service members glistened beneath his congressional pin. Pictures of the family, including one of himself and Alan in uniform, hung on the walls of his office. Frames with similar family photos rested on the windowsill.'
Wilson, who has retired from the National Guard, is among several lawmakers who have children serving in the military, some stationed in Iraq. The list includes Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Todd Akin, R-Mo., Ed Schrock, R-Va., and Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.'
Hunter's son, Duncan, is a Marine Corps second lieutenant who enlisted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He served in Iraq and is scheduled to return there. Perry Akin, a 2003 Naval Academy graduate who joined the Marines, could be in Iraq or Afghanistan after he graduates this summer from combat engineer training, his father said.'
"I believe that God watches over his shoulder, so that gives me some sense of comfort," said the elder Akin. "I believe that what he is doing is right. What he is doing is true."'
Wilson said he wishes he were the one going overseas rather than his son, but he is prepared for the worrying. He said he's in better shape emotionally because he's gained perspective from his own military experience and congressional trips to Iraq and Kuwait.'
"What would be of greatest concern is not knowing the things I know," he said. '
Roxanne Wilson is also proud, but reacted more emotionally to questions about her sons' military commitments. She said her eyes well up anytime she hears songs like Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" or when people tell her they're praying for the family. Iraq will be tough, she said, but it also was hard when her son Julian left for Clemson.'
"It's no different whether you are in Congress or a ditch digger," she said. "When your child leaves, it is hard."'
Supplying Alan with brownies and chocolate cookies is part of Roxanne Wilson's mission these days. "He is in better shape with it than I am," she joked.'
When reached by cell phone, Alan Wilson, a lawyer, spoke proudly of his work, though he realized the transition to overseas deployment would be difficult. '
"It's overwhelming that you have to leave one entire life and pick up a new one," he said. "I trust the guys I am going with. I know we are going to look after each other."'
Alan Wilson will spend his 31st birthday in Iraq. He'll miss holiday celebrations and Sunday church services sitting in the back pew of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia where the Wilsons have sat for several generations.'
"We are kind of family criers," he said. "It will be emotional."'
Both Joe and Roxanne Wilson come from strong military backgrounds. Her late father, Julian Dusenbury, served in World War II. Her first husband, Michael McCrory, an Army captain, Vietnam veteran and Alan's father, was killed in a training accident in 1975. Her brother, Marine Capt. Tim Dusenbury, was killed in a helicopter training exercise in 1979. And Wilson's father, Hugh, was a member of the Flying Tigers in World War II.'
In the past few years, the Wilson family has had some celebratory moments. Joe and Roxanne became grandparents last year, Alan graduated from law school in 2002 and Joe was elected to the House the year before that.'
Those are the kinds of events Roxanne would have preferred in 2004. '
"I would rather have a grandchild or a wedding," she said.