A Juneau sailor is serving on the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier acting as a staging base for air assaults on Afghanistan.
Robert D. Rogers, 27, has been on the carrier since January 2000 and is assigned to the ship until October 2003.
"It scared me to death when I learned he was going to the area," said his mother, Lisa Parr, on Monday.
The Vinson "had gone to Thailand and was headed to Hong Kong when Sept. 11 happened," she said. "I didn't hear from him for several weeks. Then he called out of the blue. He had to stand in line two hours to get to the phone, and then he had only two or three minutes to talk.
"He was pretty nervous about going to the Middle East, but he was excited about getting into some action," Parr said. Sailors aboard the Vinson endure constant noise from planes taking off and landing, she added. "The sailors are spooked. They are tired, they are stressed. But he's a champ. He has his faith in God and says his prayers."
Rogers said in an e-mail to the Empire, "I feel we are doing our best against terrorism and accomplishing the things that need to be done to fight terrorism."
He does not feel in immediate danger, but requested the "prayers and support" of "all fellow citizens."
Rogers is an "aviation boatswain's mate fuels." His mother believes he fuels planes. Shifts are generally 12 hours on, 12 hours off,
"sometimes longer depending on the work load," Rogers said in an e-mail to the Empire.
Parr, and Rogers' grandmother, Donalyn Callaway, watch TV news for hours at a time, hoping for an update.
"Whenever he talks to us, we ask him different questions, and he says, 'I'm not able to talk about those things. You will have to watch the news,' " Callaway said.
They believe they glimpsed him once so far in coverage of Operation Enduring Freedom, but grow anxious when the Vinson doesn't appear in press coverage for weeks at a time.
However, Callaway said she can understand that secrecy must be maintained about carrier movements, since she remembers the World War II slogan "Loose lips sink ships."
Every day at 6 p.m., Rogers' extended family gives him a thought or a prayer, Parr said. "So he knows he is getting some energy from up here, some backup."
His family in Juneau includes a fraternal twin, Chris, a younger brother, Tony, 23, Tony's two children, and a sister, Betty Jane, 18.
"Whenever we have get-togethers, we take massive pictures and let him know what's going on," Callaway said.
Parr describes her son as "a do-gooder, very kind, very helpful, very patriotic and he always wants to do the right thing. He wanted to be a police officer for a long time, but had a slight eye problem. He was in ROTC in high school in Mesquite, Texas, and then he tried to get into every branch of the service. When he moved to Juneau, he talked to a recruiter and got in."
Rogers, who is known as Dusty for his middle name, Dustin, wants to attend officers candidate school and make the Navy a career, Parr said. "He is also thinking about going into special services or into a combat engineering battalion."
Parr is in daily e-mail contact with her son.
"It reassures me and lets me know where his head is at," she said. "I try not to ask too many questions and write mostly about what's going on here, like the northern lights, so he can focus on something else (than the war against terrorism) during his break times. The Internet has been a godsend. It's like an umbilical cord."
Rogers attended boot camp in 1999 in Great Lakes, Ill., at the Naval Training Command. After boot camp, he went to Naval Tactical Training in Pensacola, Fla. He has been aboard the USS Carl Vinson since Jan. 15, 2000. The Carl Vinson, three football fields long, is homeported in Bremerton, Wash., and has about 6,000 sailors on board.
Launched in 1980, the Carl Vinson is part of the Pacific Fleet but, according to its Web site, often operates in Middle Eastern waters.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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