A ringing phone jarred Denise C. Duafala awake at 4 a.m. Wednesday. Through a sleepy haze, she heard an operator ask her to accept a collect call from Saudi Arabia.
A smile broke across her face as she waited to hear her husband's voice.
Marine Lance Cpl. Richard Duafala, 23, worried about his pregnantwife, their 3-year-old daughter and the financial problems associated with building a house, had asked his commanding officer for permission to make an emergency call home.
Marines, stationed on the front lines, don't have easy access to phones. The 100-mile trip to a phone took several hours across the desert. This week's call was only the second time Richard has phoned home since he left the day after Christmas.
After departing from Camp Lejeune, N.C., Richard's light-armored vehicle unit was sent to northern Saudi Arabia. They have beenon the front lines since war broke out.
"He has been trained to operate everything on the LAVs, but usually he is the driver," she said. "Those were the vehicles we saw so much of during the battle at Khafji."
Denise, 24, writes her husband several times a week. Angelaoften draws pictures on her mother's letters. With her mother's help, the little girl can write her own "I love you" to her father. She knows where those letters are going, too.
"My daddy is in Saudi, fighting the bad people," she said.
The Duafalas, married in 1986, have known each other since their high school days at South Carroll, where Richard played football and lacrosse.
"A little want and a little obligation" prompted Richard to joined the Marine Reserve in 1989, she said.
"We thought the extra income would help," she said. "Richard really enjoyed the weekend training, too."
Denise said shetries to make her letters upbeat. She knows how her husband worries.
When Richard's Marine Reserve unit was activated last fall, Denise was in the first months of her pregnancy.
She moved from their town home in Mount Airy to her parents' residence here. Her family didn't want her to be alone. Complications, during her first pregnancy, led to an emergency Caesarean section and the premature birth of Angela.
"We almost lost both of them when Angela was born," said Jeanette Robinson, Denise's mother. "That's why my husband and I insisted that Denise stay with us after Richard left."
The new baby is due in May. Richard hopes to be home by then. If he's not, Denise said, her parents will take her to Montgomery General Hospital.
"If there's any way he can be here, he'll do it," she said.
When Richard's unit was scheduled to leave for Saudi Arabia on Dec. 26, Denise's doctor advised against her driving seven-plus hours to say good-bye.
Determined to spend some of Christmas with his family, Richard tried all the airlines. Holiday flights from North Carolina were booked.
"That didn't stop him," she said. "He and two other Marines took a cab all the way to Maryland."
The taxi ride cost $300, but Richard got home for the weekend before Christmas.
Denise calls their financial situation "pretty tight." Richard's job with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. is secure, she said, adding that a building engineer earns more than a Marine. He also had planned to do much of the work himself on their new home.
The couple had settled on a construction loan just before Richard had to leave. Denise is trying to rent their town house to defray some of the building costs.
Richard's parents, Edward and Dorothy, live in Mount Airy. They have been helping her pack.
"When I'm back in our home, I miss Rich terribly," she said. "Healways liked to sit on our back porch. Now I stand out there and think about him."
She said Richard feels committed to the war effort.He easily made the change from weekend warrior to full-time Marine.