President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq has struck right to the heart of several area soldiers and their families.
Kay Pierce of Rantoul said she wept while she watched the president's televised speech Wednesday night.
Her son, Capt. Jacob Pierce, and his wife, Christine Pierce, are both serving in the Army at different locations in Iraq.
"It is just scary," said Pierce, a teacher at Eastlawn Elementary School. "We just have to put them in the Lord's hands."
To a soldier who recently spent 11 months in Iraq, the president's plan sounds like a good idea. U.S troops are providing an important service to this nation and to the people of Iraq, he said.
"But I think it's his last, last chance to save Iraq," said National Guard Spc. Matt Dietz of Danville.
National Guardsman Brent Cochrane of Savoy agrees.
"It sounds like a good idea, a real established plan that is well thought out," Cochrane said. "Twenty thousand troops is tough to say whether it'll fix it, but increasing the manpower there is a good thing to do now." Cochrane twice stepped on improvised bombs in Iraq – both were duds – before returning home in July.
Cochrane is now a Parkland College student but has about three years left of Guard obligation. He'd be willing to return, in part because he wants to see the new Iraqi forces eventually stand on their own.
But his new bride, Becca, would put a stop to that, he joked.
Danville resident Jim Wagner, whose son Marine Cpl. Adam Wagner, served in Iraq and died in a car crash after his return home to Danville in 2003, said the good work of the troops is often overlooked.
"I asked my son a week after he returned home, 'Adam, are those people worth it?' and he said to me, 'Dad, absolutely they are,' " Wagner said.
Adam Wagner graduated high school early to join the Marines and helped start schools while in Iraq. When his son left for Iraq, Jim Wagner said he and his family prepared for the possibility that they might never see him again.
"As far as I'm concerned, we do need to make some changes in Iraq. We need to start working with Iraqis (to help them) take control of their situation," he said.
"The question is not whether we should be there; the question is should we finish it or not? And I think we have to. If my son were alive today, he'd probably be willing to go back there."
National Guard Staff Sgt. Bill Brewer of Westville spent 13 months in Iraq, and he is actively drilling and training for possible deployment.
Since the war on terrorism, he's been deployed twice. Like Wagner, Brewer said the news media's projection of the war is focused on violence.
"It doesn't show us rebuilding cities, building schools for the kids; it doesn't show you the good stuff going on," he said.
He said Bush's plan did not come as a surprise.
"My personal feelings are either he needs to put more people in there to fix it or get everybody out," Brewer said. "If we get everybody out, then everything we've done is a lost cause."
Vicki LaBaw of Catlin fears for the safety of her nephew, Andrew Campbell, 21, of Danville, who is stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, after recently completing a tour of Iraq.
"I wouldn't be opposed to it at a later date if I knew (the Iraqi) government was willing to step up and take a hold of their own people," LaBaw said.
Air Force Capt. Andy Clayton of Rantoul, who returned home in December after 3 1/2 months in Iraq, said he supports the president's proposal to send more troops.
"If the president thinks we need more people to complete our objective, then that is what we need to do," Clayton said.
Janet Gray of Rantoul said she was thrilled to see her son come home on the day after Thanksgiving. Army Sgt. Joshua Wicker had spent 12 months as a medic with the 101st Airborne.
"He took care of the people injured in the war," Gray said.
As Gray listened to the president on Wednesday night, she began to fear that her son might be sent back soon.
"While he is willing to go, I'm concerned for his safety," Gray said.
Sinda Miller of Rantoul said the president's speech probably means more sleepless nights for her son, First Marine Lt. Jon Stiebner. Miller said her son hasn't had much sleep since he arrived in Iraq in July.
"I had a lot of mixed feelings as I listened to the president," Miller said. "I'm not sure whether sending more troops in is really the answer. Maybe we need to just get out."
Kathy Archibald of Rantoul said she believes it is time the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.
Her son-in-law, Army Private Second Class Errol Johnson, has been working as an advance scout in Iraq since September.
"I feel they need to try to get out of Iraq as soon as possible," Archibald said. "This war has lasted an awfully long time, and we have lost a lot of men and women. We want to support the troops, but I would like to see everybody come home safely."
Older veterans who spoke to The News-Gazette had mixed feelings about committing more troops to Iraq.
Bill Phalen was at Champaign American Legion Post 24 earlier this week. As a leader of the Marine League, he's careful to point out that his opinions are strictly his own.
"They're talking about sending 20,000 more troops into Baghdad, and all that's going to do is to create more casualties. That city is a long way from pacified," the 1988 past commander said. "It's time to get the hell out."
World War II veteran Voyle Spence of Mahomet said the U.S. can't interfere everywhere in the world where there are problems.
"We went off half-cocked. This wasn't worth the money or lives," Spence said. "You're not going to straighten (Iraq) out by invading. These people have been fighting each other for centuries."
But another Marine, Ceaser M. Perez of Urbana, said he'd be glad to go to Iraq.
Perez, who had combat experience in Somalia, said he trusts what U.S. commanders say.
"You have to have enough faith in the president and leadership and the people that are in power, on the ground, directly understanding what is going on," Perez said. "They have America's best interests at heart."
Perez, who is about to graduate from the University of Illinois, said he'd volunteer to fight in Iraq "in a heartbeat.
"I'm trying to re-enlist this week," he said.
Staff writer Tim Mitchell contributed to this report.