By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
The Bono house in Gasquet is surrounded by fog-laden trees, purple blooms of heather and a gentle mountain brook that divides the little homestead from the rest of the world.
It's a tranquil setting that hides the worries of a mother and father. Their daughter, Crystal Bono, in two weeks will be on her way to the front lines of the Iraqi war.
"She's scared, we're scared, but we are so proud of her she is ready," said Crystal's mom Barbara Bono yesterday, one day after the war started and two weeks before Crystal will be shipped from Ft. Hood, Texas to Kuwait.
Her duty will take her to an ever-moving camp along the war's perimeter where she will drive a fuel truck and keep the Army's Blackhawk helicopters gassed up.
At 22, Crystal is 5 foot, 2 inches tall and never dreamed of going to war.
"It's scarry. I've been anticipating a lot and I have a lot of friends over there it's just hard. My unit will be jumping around a lot to wherever the helicopters can come down to get fuel," Crystal said yesterday in a telephone interview.
When asked if she felt fully prepared for her mission, there was no doubt or hesitancy in her voice.
"Definitely. We're trained and ready to go," she said.
After graduating from Del Norte High School, Crystal went to school and waited tables. Barbara said her daughter moved to Redding just before deciding to join the military.
"She signed-up to get away from her ex-boyfriend and she didn't want to be a waitress the rest of her life. But wherever she would move, he would follow, so one day she called us and said guess what I did," said Barbara.
Crystal committed to a three-year stint in the Army and chose to train as a fuel-supply specialist, because it was one of the best-paying positions, but she had no thought she would have to put her skills to use outside of U.S.-based training missions.
"A lot of the kids join thinking there will never be a war," said Bono family friend Dave Hubbard, whose West Point graduate son Nathan Hubbard is now an Army Captain stationed in Kosovo.
Barbara and her husband Philip Bono never dreamed their petite daughter would ever go to war either.
"She was not even the type of person at all. An Army recruiter started coming to the restaurant where Crystal worked and started talking to her about joining. We never imagined she would," said Barbara.
The Blackhawk unit Crystal is a member of was readying their fuel trucks yesterday by changing their green-camouflage dressing to sandy-desert colors.
They are also ordering and packing enough supplies for themselves and their fuel trucks to last a year.
Being around fuel, Crystal will have to wear heavy flame-retardant gloves, goggles and suits in the 114-degree weather.
She will also carry four syringes with her at all times. In them will be antidotes to the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein's army might use.
The Blackhawk helicopters she will be refueling are used to carry 16 to 18 soldiers from base to battle and back several times a day.
The fuel trucks will travel by rail to a major port, then be shipped to Iraq.
Crystal's unit will catch up to the trucks on an unestablished date in April. She and her cohorts are working about 12 hours a day to get ready.
Barbara said the two talk on the phone twice every day. She said the fact that Crystal is busy now helps keep her mind off fears of what might happen to her in Iraq.
Though she found out a few months ago that her daughter was headed for war, the reality of it didn't sink in until two weeks ago, Barbara said.
"The scariest moment was when she called to tell me she had to fill out a will. She was going to make me the beneficiary and give me the power of attorney. She had to do that once before when she was sent to South Korea a couple of years ago, but I didn't think anything of it. But now she's being sent to war that's different.
"But that's when reality set in. It's scary when your 22-year-old tells you you are her beneficiary. It's supposed to be the other way around and hopefully it will be," Barbara said.
What makes this experience of sending their daughter to war worse is the fact that Crystal was scheduled to get out of the Army this August.
The family was also planning Crystal's wedding for November.
President George Bush visited Ft. Hood a couple of months ago and Crystal found out she was being retained in the military for another year.
Her wedding has been postponed until after she gets back.
In the meantime, Barbara takes phone calls at home about every five minutes from friends and family giving moral support. Her husband Phil tries to stay distracted by his work with the Forest Service and both of them try not to let each other cry.
"I've been doing a lot of raking and outside work which really helps me," she said.
As a socially conscious couple in the 1960s, who watched the Vietnam veterans return to a disheartened U.S., Barbara and Phil are worried that may happen to their daughter.
"My concern is when they come back being an unsupported war as it is that it may be like Vietnam," Barbara said.
Her hope is that those who are opposed to the war and America's policy of pre-emption will understand that the troops are only doing what they're told and just trying to uphold America's freedoms, she said.
Though Barbara said she is confused about why the U.S. had to "jump" into war now without more world support, she said she feels a deep patriotism and pride in her daughter.
And though she and her daughter talk so much, Barbara tries not to let her fears be heard.
"As a parent, you can't break down into tears on the phone," she said.