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Locals cheer end of war

By Ed Brock

They're still not sure when their fighting family members are coming homing from the Middle East, but several Clayton and Henry county families were happy to hear President Bush declared the end of hostilities in Iraq.

Of course, Louise Astin of Rex, whose son is Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Henderson, was only slightly comforted.

"My mind is not going to be at peace until he gets back home even if President Bush says it's over," Astin said.

Astin heard from her son, who is based in Germany, last week and at that time he was not sure when he would be coming home. Henderson was scheduled to attend some kind of school in Arizona in July but he told his mother "I'm not holding my breath."

"The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless," Bush said." We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory."

When U.S. Army Spc. Nilsson Riley of Locust Grove e-mailed his wife Tracy Riley on Thursday he said he was hopeful that he would be home by summer. Tracy Riley rushed home from a final exam to watch Bush's speech.

"I think it will boost their moral more," said Riley, referring not only to her husband who is still in Baghdad but also to other families such as hers.

"There's a lot of anticipation to get home and back to their family."

Her husband, a member of the 3rd ID Mechanized Unit, helped to take Saddam International Airport and has seen members of his unit die in combat.

"He said he's had a few bullets fly over him," Riley said. "He's seen a few things he'd rather not talk about."

Wendy Bing of Hampton said her son, Pfc. Mark Bing, and his friends are just excited about the war being essentially over, and so are the Bings.

"We've been sitting on the edge of our seat," Bing said. "The day he went over was the first day of the war so we were so scared."

However, her son and his comrades have since proven to her that patriotism is not dead.

As a veteran of the Korean War, Marilyn Hall of McDonough said the President's speech meant a lot to her.

"I feel any President in office is still the Commander in Chief," Hall said.

Having served in the Navy, Hall also said that watching Bush land on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln "brought back memories."

Henry County administrative assistant Dianne Holliday is the daughter and sister of career soldiers. Her son, John Barclay Holliday, graduated from Air Force boot camp a month before the hostilities began.

"I don't think we're at the end of it yet. They've still got to put a whole government in place," Holliday said. "But I'm pleased to see that a lot of troops that have been over there the longest are coming back. Our POWs are home and we've had relatively few losses. I'm thankful for that."

At a National Day of Prayer event in Stockbridge on Thursday, the Rev. Norm Drummond of First Baptist Church of Ellenwood, encouraged residents to pray for the military troops and the nation's leaders.

"I think we tend to compartmentalize our lives," Drummond said. "We need a day of prayer for our nation to remind us of the rest of the world outside of our immediate world. We tend to pray for things that we have some control over. We need to be concerned about the rest of the world."

? April Avison and Diane Wagner contributed to this story