Tale of two soldiers

Sgt. Steven Morris, pictured training with his Marine Corps special operations unit, was involved in the operation that rescued now-famous prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch. Morris' mother, Robin Morris, lives in Troy and works in Enterprise.

One has a son who was injured by a granade in Baghdad last week. One has a son who was part of the operation that rescued now-famous prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch.

Mike Bagwell of Enterprise and Robin Morris of Troy share more than space in an office building on Main St. Enterprise. They also share the anxiety and pride that go with having soldier sons serving in the thick of the action in war-time Iraq.

It's only a coincidence that Bagwell, new manager of the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority short line, and Morris, student and part-time employee of the local Eastern Oregon University office, both work at the corner of Main and SW 1st St.

But the coincidence shows that a small county in the corner of Oregon has as much at stake in war in the Middle East as any place on earth.

"It shows that the war isn't over yet," said Mike Bagwell last week about son Christopher, 22, who serves with the 101st Airborn Division of the U.S. Army from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was deployed to Iraq with his company on March 7 after months of urban assault training.

"He called my wife (Midge Bagwell in Mississippi) on the cell phone of an embedded reporter working with MSNBC," said Mike Bagwell. "They cannot tell us much, but what he told his mother was that he had been injured by in a grenade explosion and that he was in a hospital." The fact the attack was in Baghdad, Bagwell said they knew by "putting two and two together" from news reports. Midge Bagwell received the call at 2 a.m. Central Standard Time Tuesday, when it was 10 a.m. in Iraq.

Christopher Bagwell reported that a grenade had exploded 25 feet from where he and five others were positioned. He was knocked unconscious, and woke up in a pool of his own blood, suffering schrapnel wounds to his head and legs. "He said that there were also five other soldiers stunned and injured in the explosion, but when they recovered enough they "took out" the site from which the grenade was launched.

While he was given the chance to come home, where his pregnant wife is also a soldier at Ft. Campbell, young Bagwell opted to stay, recover from his wounds and go back into action with his unit. Two of his close friends from Ft. Campbell were seriously hurt in the grenade attack.

Bagwell says he is immensely proud of his son, and also worried. "Every time the phone rings ....., " he said, trailing off. "In his last call he said he is fine, don't worry about him."

On a more cheerful note, Bagwell added, "My son looks forward to coming here to Wallowa County when he gets home."

Robin Morris knows the anxiety Bagwell is going through.

Her older son, Sgt. Steven Morris, 26, serves in the U.S. Marine Corps in a special unit called Force Reconnaissance, which typically goes ahead of other forces gathering information. He left the United States from Camp Pendleton on Jan. 1, and his unit was attached to the British Marines based in Kuwait. When Morris was headed for Iraq before the war started, he e-mailed his mother that she might not hear from him for awhile. "We didn't hear from him for several weeks," said Morris, who noted that while he is now back in contact via e-mail, "I have no idea where he's at."

When Morris and her husband finally heard from their son recently, he said his platoon had been involved in the rescue of POW Lynch, but he couldn't say much about it. "He said it was quite a night, and maybe sometime he'll tell us about some of his experiences, or maybe he'll just try to forget about them, " Morris recalled.

Like Bagwell, Morris is able to piece together information about her son from the news media. Since his is an especially dangerous job, some of it isn't all that reassuring. For example, a story she gleaned off the Internet dated March 20 (the day after the war started) and headlined "'Force recon' ready for risky jobs'" were about her son's unit. Another from Yahoo News Service reported an account about how Force Reconnaisance created a diversion during the Lynch rescue.

"I've never been so stressed out in my life," said Morris. "But I am very, very proud of him."

Morris and her husband, Warren, moved about five years ago to the Troy area, where he is the manager of the Shilo Ranch. Their younger son, Scott, also served in the Marines, and is now a student at Eastern Oregon University.

"When he comes home, he comes home to Troy," said Morris of her Marine son. In his last e-mail Sgt. Steven Morris told his mother he hadn't had a shower in six weeks, he was sick of living on ready to eat rations and he was looking "forward to mom's home cooking."

For Robin Morris, Mike Bagwell and others, that day can't come soon enough.

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