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Missing her children, hoping for a quick return to normal

NAME: Sgt. Charmain Jones

AGE: 27


BRANCH: Marines

JOB: Electrician


CAMP VIPER, southern Iraq—Sgt. Charmain Jones is sure about one thing: Her children are getting spoiled rotten.

Jones and her husband, Sgt. Terrance Jones, are Marines stationed in Iraq. Their three children—Demetrice, 4, Michael, 2, and Natasha, 6 months—are staying with their grandparents, Johnny and Melondy Jones, in Bradenton, Fla.

"I don't think they miss me at all," Jones says, smiling. "They are with their grandparents. They are getting away with murder."

Jones, 27, of Houston, is an electrician with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion. Her husband helps build runways with another unit. They met in the Marines in 1999.

"He's at the Air Force base, like 35 minutes from Camp Coyote," she says. "I saw him once when I was at Coyote. I was happy. We had been separated for a month or a month and a half. I like playing with my kids and my husband. My husband and I are like two big kids."

She has been in Iraq since Feb. 6.

"Am I sick of it?" she says. "It's tolerable, but I can't wait to go home."

Jones joined the Marines seven years ago, for a $2,000 bonus and a chance to go to school. She is scheduled to get out Dec. 2, and says she doesn't plan to re-enlist.

This is her third deployment. She has been to Bolivia and Greece.

She can't wait to see her children; her smile grows stronger as she talks about them.

"Demetrice loves her grandpa," Jones says. "And their grandma loves children. I'm sure they are getting spoiled. But they are in good hands. Demetrice is sneaky. She tries to get away with everything. And my son, he is rough. He likes to pick with her, to make her mad, just because he knows he can do it. She'll start crying and go and tell my husband and me. My son thinks it's funny, and my husband thinks it's funny."

Her smile fades. As much as she wants to see her children, she's prepared for a rough homecoming.

"I think I'll be heartbroken when I see them," she says. "I know how my daughter was when I left her for the first time for three months. When I came back, she looked at me like, `Who is this lady, waking me up at 6 o'clock in the morning?' She didn't know who I was. So I kind of expect it."


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

ILLUSTRATION (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): IRAQFACES+JONES