NEW YORK — They look like any group of real close friends, yapping it up over dinner, or gathering in a barn over the haul from their latest run to Wal-Mart. But they've only been the very closest of friends since they met on a Web site, started by Tracy Della Vecchia from Missouri, called MarineParents.com.
The site is, for the most part, a band of mothers whose sons are Marines at war in Iraq. It started when Tracy's son Derrick went to Iraq with the first wave. A lot of it is practical advice — how to get a letter or a package delivered, and how to keep from missing your son's call.
"Don't go anywhere without your cell phone," advises Tracy. "Even to the shower or the bathroom."
But the almost immediate intimacy of the connection among these women — whether they're sharing a meal, sending off care packages or just chatting online — comes from helping each other deal with their common terror of getting what they call a D.O.D., the car coming down the drive, signaling the Department of Defense notification that another mother has lost another son in Iraq.
Georgette Frank lost her son Phil in April 2004. And while she stopped posting to the Web site for awhile, afraid she'd represent a parent's worst nightmare, friends on the site told her she really stood for something else.
"That they can go on, and their life can have meaning," says Georgette.
So Georgette and hundreds of other women keep writing, and some men, too. They talk, meet when they can, grieve when another Marine is lost and worry when Lee Ann Wrinkle says she's just heard her son Jeremy has been wounded.
"Your heart almost stops," says Lee Ann. "You know, you have to literally think, 'breathe, breathe!'"
And they rejoice with her when they learn Jeremy is all right. They're mothers determined to do what mothering they can, from a distance. There is no politics on the site — just mothering.
"He's my little boy," says Lee Anne, "though I know he's not anymore."
Tracy Della Vecchia says she gets one reaction more than any other.
"Thank you for this Web site. I'm no less frightened, but I'm a lot less alone."
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