Wednesday, September 19, 2001
MONMOUTH -- Monmouth Mayor Paul Evans is back home.
He could be heading out again tomorrow. He doesn't know.
An officer in the Air Force Reserve, Evans just got back from Monmouth after spending the better part of three months in Kuwait.
When he returned last week, he reported to Camp Rilea on the coast to file some reports. The five-day stay stretched into six days after terrorists hit New York City and Washington, D.C.
He calls every day to get information from his superiors and learn if -- or when -- he may ship out now that President Bush has activated the reserves.
"I'm waiting on word," Evans said.
A large-scale air war would probably send him back into duty.
"There are a lot of rumors. There is a good chance I will go. There's a good chance I won't. It depends on what the president wants to do."
The prospect of leaving home again is not very appealing, Evans said.
"I'd like to get back in the saddle again as a working mayor. I'm splitting my thinking between the short term and long term."
Nonetheless, Evans said, his duty is clear.
"I stand ready to serve my county. Our country has been attacked. Your shut your mouth, you pack your bags and you go. This is not a time to stand up and debate the finer points."
His time in Kuwait was both interesting and exhausting, Evans said.
Although he can't speak for the military, only himself, Evans said it's clear the United States is extremely unpopular in the region.
"My personal perception is that the United States is a very force in the world and in that region we're not appreciated by many. We have allies and friends in the region. There should be no doubt about that.
"But it s a very tense and difficult situation."
Fighting a war on terrorism is going to be difficult to wage at best, Evans said. That still hasn't dampened America's fighting spirit.
"It was still an attack. I've been talking to a lot of veterans as mayor. They say if they'd waive the age requirement, they'd put on the uniform and go."
Evans said the days to come are going to be rough. An American retaliation will likely meet with more attacks on American soil.
"Americans need to be courageous," Evans said.
"The next few months will be be very different from the past. We have to have the courage to support the polices of our national leaders."
But courage means more than that, Evans said.
There will an impulse among certain people to strike back, to take out their anger on people who look Middle Eastern. Americans need to control their fear and anger, Evans said.
Terrorists were attacking the idea of America, he said, the idea that a diverse and multicultural society can thrive in a representative democracy.
If Americans give into anger, they are destroying the very thing targeted by the terrorists.
"We can't let ourselves win the battle and lose the war," Evans said. "We have to keep our eyes on the ball.
"People attacked American. There are going to be casualties. But we're in this thing together. We're a family."
Evans said it's important for people to participate in such things as the 24-Hour Challenge Relay this weekend.
"In this time in history, it's a very important time to come together and be together."