February 9, 2005: From the Editor

Home on the base

Home on the base, from left, are PAW’s Mark Bernstein ’83; Sarah Apgar ’02, who returned in March from deployment in Iraq; K.C. McWatters Loeffert ’03, holding Vivian; Geoff Gasperini ’01; and Bethany Witmer Gasperini ’01. (Courtesy Mark Bernstein ’83)

Many of you may remember Geoff and Bethany Witmer Gasperini, members of the Class of 2001, from our Oct. 26, 2003, issue. That issue was dedicated to reflections of the still-young war in Iraq, and Bethany was among the alumni who contributed short first-hand reports. She wrote about the time she spent waiting for her husband to return from Iraq, where he led a tank squadron, and included snippets of letters she had received from him. At the time, Geoff was in the seventh month of what Bethany had hoped would be a six-month deployment.

Geoff, a member of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, finally returned to Bethany last March, one year after he left home. PAW senior writer Mark Bernstein ’83 recently spent time with them at their base in Fort Carson, Colo., to learn more about what life is like for a military couple during wartime. Mark’s report includes details about Geoff’s time overseas, but also tells about the kind of stress Army service places on the families left behind. Not only did Bethany cope with her own fears, she served as a leader in Geoff’s unit’s “family readiness group,” a support group for soldiers’ wives. One task was to deliver meals to the families of those who had been killed.

Mark met other alumni at Fort Carson, including Kathrin (K.C.) McWatters Loeffert ’03, a military intelligence officer who had served in the Princeton Army ROTC program. K.C.’s situation, like Bethany’s, illustrates the extent to which military service truly is a family affair. She and her husband, Ethan, an Army helicopter pilot, have a 3-month-old daughter, Vivian. Ethan was scheduled to be redeployed late this winter for a full year, and K.C. was due to follow in the fall. She hopes to take advantage of a program that enables one member of a two-soldier couple with small children to leave the Army early, but that would require her to repay half her ROTC stipend — the equivalent of two years of Princeton tuition, plus interest. If she is not successful, Vivian will stay with K.C.’s mother until K.C. or Ethan returns.

But no one knows what future assignments will bring, and flexibility is key. Geoff had applied to law school, but recently learned he would have to defer his legal education. His military service has been extended for another year.

With this issue, PAW welcomes Ray Ollwerther ’71 as our new managing editor. The former executive editor of two enterprising New Jersey newspapers, the Asbury Park Press and the Home News Tribune, Ray comes to us with strong editing skills, innovative ideas, and a commitment to Princeton and its alumni. For seven years, this former student journalist served on the board of another independent-minded Princeton publication: the Prince. We feel lucky to have him, and look forward to his contributions. end of article

Marilyn H. Marks *86



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