Lance Cpl. Bryce Collins of Juneau is part of the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaida in southern Afghanistan.
"It's scary. We watch the news every day for hours," Gayle Collins said today about her son, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate.
Exactly where Bryce Collins is and what he is doing every day are not known to his family. A member of 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he joined the U.S. Marines about a year and a half ago. He'll be 22 on Dec. 19.
Gayle Collins, an administrative assistant with the Legislative Affairs Agency, said she's talked with her son a couple of times in the past two months.
"We got a box top from him - a little note with Arabic writing. We got that about four weeks ago," she said.
Stepfather Bill Adair, who owns Bullwinkle's Pizza, said he last saw Bryce Collins in August at his base in Camp Pendleton, Calif. Adair was able to talk to him by satellite phone in mid-October.
"He was on the ground, but he wouldn't say where. He was over there, someplace. Pakistan, I think," he said.
Because of security reasons, Marines can't tell family members where they are, what the weather is or what they're having for dinner. Even C-rations may provide clues about what they are doing, Adair said.
Bryce Collins attended college in Coos Bay, Ore., for about a year before he joined the Marines. Adair, who is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, said he tried to talk Collins out of joining, but it didn't work.
"My dad is also a Marine. It's kind of a tradition," he said.
After seizing a base in southern Afghanistan, the 15th Marine Special Expeditionary Unit is working around the clock, according to the Marine Corps Web site. Marines are occupying fighting holes around the perimeter and are patrolling the surrounding desert.
According to Adair, Bryce Collins is special-operations qualified and trains with Navy Seals.
"I'm nervous at times. I've got extreme faith in the Marine Corps and their training," he said. "They're highly qualified for what they're doing."
Bryce Collins' Uncle and Aunt Wally and Cindi Roman live in Juneau. His grandmother Judy McDonald lives in Tenakee Springs. His sister, Heather Collins, attends Shasta College in Redding, Calif.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.