National Guard's triple play - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

National Guard's triple play

April 8, 2003
Blountstown, FL - It's Folk Days at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown.
That means a hands on history lesson for local elementary students. But for their teacher, Debbie Eldridge, it's just another way to take her mind off the history being made in Iraq.

"I stay really busy and that helps," Eldridge said.

Debbie's son Johann Von Lierop is an army captain fighting in Iraq.

But that's not her only child at war.

The Buchanan triplets, Christina, Melissa and Jessica, have been a part of her family for some time.

A year and a half ago when their mother died of a heart attack, a close friendship between the triplets and Debbie's daughter opened a new home for the girls.

The bond between the two families is easy to understand.

"My husband was killed in 1994 in a plane crash, so my kids had gone through losing a parent too," she said.

Now, a blue star flag, an old World War I tradition, hangs in Debbie's home. Four stars for four children.

"My parents are having a tough time with this, because as far as they're concerned these are grandchildren," Eldridge said.

But now, they're soldiers. As daughters of a single mom, the girls found their way to the National Guard in search of college tuition.

"Jessica, who's the middle triplet, actually came up with the idea that they could join the National Guard and that would help them get through college."

The Buchanan's expected service more along the lines of homeland security. Not all out war. But the curveballs of life have made them a tough team.

Eldridge talks about them like they are a small army of their own.

"They're sort of like a little unit and they sort of hold each other up."

When they're deployed, they'll go together.

"If something were to happen to one of them, I don't know what I would do," said one of the triplets from Fort Stewart recently. "You might as well take me out of wherever I am."

Through calls on a cell phone, they are keeping their stand-in mom posted on training at Fort Stewart. And training is hard work.

"One of them told me the other morning that she had cried, but she was doing o-k then."

But Eldridge is not alone in her care and concern for Christina, Jessica and Melissa. Blountstown is their home, and people here are watching and waiting to see when these young women will go to war.

"I think there is a lot of emotion involved, we're all a little bit frightened, but very proud of them," said Sharon McCrone, a teacher at Blountstown High School, who taught the triplets.

They're discipline and determination, she said, is a credit to mom. "That wasn't the military, that was their mother," she said. "Their mother did a tremendous job of raising these young ladies."

Now those qualities will be a credit to America's military.

"I think they're just brave because they've had to be," Eldridge. "They're ready to go and do what they have to do."

And what they may do could be part of history that children like these in Bountstown will be learning for generations to come.

posted by 6:45 p.m. on April 8 by brannon.stewart@walb.com