- Fred Varnado of Hattiesburg isn't watching that much television
these days, unlike many Americans who have stayed glued to
their sets since the beginning of the latest war with Iraq.
And if you knew much about him, you might wonder why not.
a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army who served
at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., has a wife and daughter
who are both active military with the U.S. Army stationed
at Camp Doha in Kuwait, not far from the fierce fighting taking
place between coalition troops and the remains of a military
loyal to Iraqi president Sadaam Hussein.
is at peace with the situation, due in part to his strong
religious faith and the instructions of his wife, Col. Sheila
Varnado of Cleveland, Ohio, to go about his daily routine
- and not worry.
doing fine," said Fred Varnado, an academic coordinator
with the McNair Scholars Program at The University of Southern
Mississippi. "I know my wife is a strong Christian, and
they (Sheila and his daughter, Specialist 4th Class Tanishia
Varnado of Florence) and they are well trained," or,
as Varnado says in 'military speak,' "tactically and
he can't help but catch a little of the latest news about
the conflict. "I've tried not to, but I do watch it some,
of course, but she (Sheila) doesn't want me to worry, because
she (and Tanishia) are safe."
like Fred did when he embarked on his 24-year military career,
his wife and daughter took their respective oaths "to
uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign
and domestic," an obligation the entire family takes
met while both were stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga. Sheila
later became the first African-American and first woman to
direct the Southern Miss Army ROTC. He said their daughter
was inspired to join the military by the experience of her
mother and daughter work just a building apart at Camp Dohar,
and are able to communicate with Fred when they can by e-mail
almost daily. Varnado said he couldn't discuss what their
duties are at Camp Dohar, only that they work in "highly
can't say where they are exactly or about operational missions,
but they can talk about their concerns and about the weather,"
Rawls, a graduate assistant from Brentwood, Tenn., who works
with Varnado at Southern Miss, says he's impressed by his
ability to cope while his family is so far from home and so
close to danger.
(Fred) just a unique spirit," said Rawls, who is a graduate
student in college student personnel services. Rawls is impressed
at how Varnado remains optimistic and upbeat despite not having
his family close by - and out of harm's way. "He has
a faith that is unparalleled with anyone I've ever met. It
amazes me on a daily basis that he can walk around with a
smile on his face, he's such an optimistic person. The glass
is always half full with Mr. V."
he's hung up his fatigues for civilian life, Varnado says
he'd love to join his family in serving his country again.
"After being in (the military) as long as I was, I'm
sort of hungry to be a part of that mission."