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Cynthia Witt plays with her children at their Rockford, Ill., home.
NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/30/2004 10:51:34 AM ET 2004-06-30T14:51:34

The dangerous desert of Iraq may be a world away from quiet Rockford, but for the Witt family it’s never far from their minds.

"Until he gets back in the States I won't be comfortable," said Cynthia Witt, referring to her husband who has spent 18 months serving in Iraq.

Spc. George Witt has spent much of his tour of duty as a Military Policeman at a fuel depot about 100 miles from Baghdad.

Now his National Guard unit is stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison. But no matter where he is, his family worries.

"I can't begin to explain the void with him not being here,” Cynthia said. “Trying to be the mother and father to my [five] kids."

It’s been a struggle. "Just learning the everyday things, like learning to use the lawnmower, the snow blower, fixing things around the house, the homework, trying to manage the bills,” she explained.

The Witt children range in age from two to 11 -– and the family is living on much less money now that the main breadwinner is overseas.

Staying in touch
Communicating with dad these days involves writing cards and letter — and waiting for the mail delivery every morning.

Postcards to his children are about the only way George Witt has of communicating with his children, letting them know how much he misses them.

"Hi Nick, you being a good boy? And helping mom? How is school? It's really hot over here...I hope it's cool over there...I'll try to send you some Iraqi money."

"Hi Ciara...I miss you very much, are you being a good girl? I hope so."

I showed your picture to everyone, I love you...see you soon..love dad."

There’s no doubt that while the 43-year-old specialist is making a sacrifice for his country, his family is also paying a price.

"He told me that he had to go because he had to save our country," said 9-year-old Ciara Witt.

"I miss his personality because he's funny." Nick, 11, said.

Cynthia Witt worries that the absence is taking its toll on the children. "Just not having him here..the void, the vacancy, it's hard on them."

Dashed hopes
False hopes also have played havoc with the Witt family. George was supposed to return to Rockford in April, only to have his tour extended after he’d already arrived in Kuwait to fly home.

Cynthia admits the family’s patience and sense of duty is wearing thin.

"My husband, he honestly believes that they did the right thing, but to speak to him on the phone and you know ... [it’s clear] he's just ready to come home now,” she said. “He feels he's done what he was supposed to do."

With the transfer of power this week in Baghdad — and the upsurge in violence — there is fresh sense of uncertainty. Already, U.S. officials have suggested they may increase the American deployment in Iraq.

"I really don't understand what difference it's going to make,” Cynthia Witt said of the transition of power Wednesday. “I don't know if it means the war is over, or that all the soldiers are coming home. I don't understand what it means."

Yet the Witts remain hopeful. The family is planning a "Welcome Home" party for later this summer — and they are hoping the guest of honor will be there.

"When he gets home I'm gonna run and give him a big hug,” Nick said. “I’m gonna tell him that I missed him very very much...we all did."

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