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Mother says goodbye to two sons going to fight in Iraq

FORT RILEY, Kan.—It's hard enough for a mother to say goodbye to one son going to war. But two of Patricia Perkins' boys—both in the same tank battalion (a real no-no by Army standards)—are headed to Iraq.

"I'm thrilled that they've joined the service. The heartbreaking part of it is to see them go to war," said Perkins, a nursing home dietary director in Akron, Colo.

She is planning to visit her sons this weekend. "I will tell them that I love them very dearly and that I'm proud of them." She'll also tell them how comforting it is to know her two sons will be riding in 70-ton Abrams battle tanks. "They got a lot of armor around them," she said.

One son, Spc. Jeff Perkins, 20, is a tank loader for Charlie Company of 1st Battalion, 13th Armor. Another son, Spc. Scott Weber, 22, is a tank driver for Alpha Company of the same battalion, which has about 500 soldiers.

They are the youngest of four sons Patricia raised by herself. She and their father never married, but Jeff took his mother's last name and brother Scott chose his father's. The men have not had contact with their father for many years.

For obvious reasons, the Army has a general policy of not allowing siblings to serve together in the same units. The different last names may have opened the door to the exception, but battalion commanders finally decided to let the brothers stay together because they are in separate tank companies, of about 80 men each. Another reason for the exception: Their family has at least one male heir not in harm's way, said battalion Sgt. Maj. Ricky Pring.

The two brothers, who grew up in Nebraska and Colorado, joined the Army together more than two years ago. They went through basic training together at Fort Knox, Ky., and were glad to be assigned to the same battalion at Fort Riley. Until recently, they lived in the same barracks.

Both are married, and Jeff has a stepson.

There are benefits to staying in the same battalion, Jeff said. "You always have somebody you're close to. You always have somebody you can talk to."

Scott said he understands his mother's concern for their welfare. "I keep telling her that we're well-trained and we're good kids and can take care of ourselves."

That sounds just like him, she said. "He always says, `Mom, don't worry.'"

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(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

PERKINS+FORT+RILEY.

Iraq

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