By Ed Brock
Father to son, soldier to soldier, Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Clifford prepared his son for deployment in Iraq to fight a war that began a year ago today.
Two weeks ago, on the verge of 21-year-old Army Spec. James Clifford Jr.'s deployment, the elder Clifford and his wife Karen traveled to Fort Hood Army base in Texas to see their child off. Clifford, who was deployed to Kuwait with the 52nd Ordnance Group out of Fort Gillem in Forest Park just before the outbreak of the war, talked to his son about the importance of always wearing his protective gear and handling his weapon properly.
And they talked about how to cope emotionally with his first deployment overseas.
"I told him he shouldn't allow himself to be burdened about how long it will be and things he can't control," said Clifford. "I had the desire to tell him everything I've learned in 28 years of military service but you just can't do that."
The approach of the anniversary of the beginning of the war was marked in Iraq by deadly car bombings in Baghdad and Basra, and in the United States President Bush addressed troops at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Speaking at the same outdoor field where he addressed troops in November 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, Bush told the soldiers they were serving "at a crucial hour in the history of freedom."
"In the first war of the 21st century you're defending your fellow citizens against ruthless enemies. And by your sacrifice, you're making our country more secure," Bush said. "You have delivered justice to many terrorists, and you're keeping the rest of them on the run."
Around Clayton County the patriotic signs, American flags and yellow ribbons that were so obvious a year ago have mostly disappeared or faded with time.
"It's just like when the Braves first won the World Series. Everyone had Braves banners," said Robbie Moore of Jonesboro.
Moore and his father Lee Moore have a small billboard standing in front of the insurance company they own on Main Street in Jonesboro that reads "Support Our Troops or Leave." Robbie Moore said he's had friends who have fought in the war.
"I think some of the newness has worn off, but it's still a serious subject," Moore said. "This means as much to me now as it did on Sept. 12."
The waning expression of support is nothing new for Jonesboro Vietnam veteran Freeman Poole.
"The public seems to lose interest unless they have a personal interest," Poole said. "That's something soldiers and their families are used to."
Clifford and his family retain a very personal interest in the war. Before the younger Clifford was deployed in Iraq his wife Jennifer, a private first class also stationed at Fort Hood, was already serving there. The Army sent Jennifer Clifford home early when she learned she was pregnant with the couple's 2-month-old daughter McKenzie.
"We have a whole family affair going on here," Karen Clifford said. "But even if we didn't have (James Clifford Jr.) over there we'd have concern for all the other soldiers."
James Clifford senior, who returned from the war in October, said he thinks the "overall picture" in Iraq is getting better but the soldiers are still on edge over the changeover of power to the new Iraqi government scheduled to occur in June. Also, much of the recent violence in the country seems to be directed more at Iraqis who are seen by rebels as collaborating with America rather than at American troops themselves.
That can change at any time, Clifford said, but it won't dissuade him, his son or the rest of the United States' fighting force.
"Whether it's one attack on Americans or hundreds of attacks a day, our job is still the same," Clifford said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.