Family finds solace in each other as they
wait for word from war zone
By Misty Volaski
When Brian Houle told his family
at the age of 14 that he wanted to be in the Marine Corps, his
father, Ray, didn't exactly take him seriously.
But by July of 2001, just a month after his Nordhoff graduation,
Brian was already headed to one of the United States' most notoriously
difficult boot camps at Camp LeJeune, N.C.
For the 13 weeks following, he endured heavy training, followed
by a 54-hour, nonstop test dubbed "The Crucible," which
pushes each potential Marine to the limit and beyond. The test,
which cannot be passed without lots of teamwork, ends with a
nine-mile run, by which time only about 20 percent of applicants
actually cross the finish line to become Marines.
Brian was one of those 20 percent - which was no surprise to
his family. "He's always been determined to be a Marine,"
said Ray. "We knew he would (pass)."
When it was all over, his family asked him how he felt. Incredibly,
Ray noted, "Brian said, 'I enjoyed it. I got a little tired
at the end, though.'"
From there he moved on to Camp Pendleton School of Infantry,
where he learned the skills he would need in war. Brian's family
said the school stressed teamwork and survival, and that Brian
was only too happy to work his hardest.
"He liked it best in the field," said Ray. "He
would call us and say, 'Don't call me for X amount of days, we're
going into the field.'"
After his graduation, he was stationed back at Camp Lejeune,
and remained at the base there until the beginning of March,
when his family got the call they'd been dreading: "They're
sending us to Iraq."
"But that's where he wanted to go. They were all so excited
to go," said Brian's mom, Michelle.
At first, they said, Brian was reluctant to say whether they
might be going to Iraq. They talked to other family and Jessica
Stogsdill, Brian's fiancé, and by February, the family
knew there was a good chance he might be going overseas.
"I think he wanted to protect
his mother and me," Ray said. Brian boarded the plane to
Iraq a little nervous, but not scared, said his family. "He
wanted to go. They all did," said Michelle.
Brian left behind a sister, Angela, a senior in high school,
and both parents at home. Not to mention Jessica. "She is
so good for him," said sister, Angela. "She softened
Long-time friend Naomi Eshoo agrees. "I never thought he
would do that," she laughed, about his engagement. "He's
always been so scared of that sort of thing. It's so great."
But that also made things a lot harder. Now, "It's like
he fell off the face of the Earth," said Ray. "We have
no idea where he is."
Ever since the onset of the war, Brian's family and friends have
been glued to the TV, newspapers, and Internet, desperately trying
to find out where he is. "I keep looking at pictures, thinking,
That's him!'" Ray commented. "Then I look again and
Recently, the family got a letter from him, saying he wasn't
allowed to disclose his location, and that he didn't know when
he might be able to write again. They have not heard from him
since, but the family remains confident they'll hear from him
"probably after they take Baghdad."
"The danger factor is extremely high (for Brian),"
Ray said. "That, coupled with not knowing where he is, makes
it worse. Far worse. If I knew he was in the south, or the north
or the middle I would feel better. We could know, hey today was
a good day for him, or a not-so-good day."
Michelle and Ray say that all the military families are probably
feeling the same.
" It's driving the families crazy. We haven't a clue where
our sons and daughters are. The unknown is the scariest thing
The family listens to the latest reports, hoping to hear about
Brian's company, 2/6 Fox Company, of the Second Division, but
thus far have gotten no word.
Regardless, "We're major proud of him. He's a damn good
Marine,"said Ray Houle.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
Brian Houle's mother,
Michelle, and sister, Angela, look through a scrapbook full of
pictures, newspaper clippings, and other mementos of Brian's,
including a photo of him in his Marine Corps uniform. The family
remains glued to TV coverage on the war in Iraq, hoping to hear
something about where their son is currently fighting.