Relief proves to be as sweet as victory for friends, family back in Baltimore WAR IN THE GULF


Lori Bokeno sat on her bed last night and cried, and cried.

But when she leaned over finally to kiss the photograph of her husband -- as she has done every night since Maryland National Guard Spc. David Bokeno left for Saudi Arabia -- her tears tasted sweet.

"Finally it's over," said the 24-year-old Baltimore woman, overcome by the news of an expected midnight cease-fire in the gulf war. "And I can just wait for the day when he calls me and says, 'Come get me.' "

In Rosedale, Cecilia Hoehn summed up her feelings in one word: "relief."

She and her husband, Steven, had cut short the family support group meeting they've hosted weekly at Red House Run Elementary School so that the 40 to 50 people in attendance could hear President Bush announce the cease-fire.

"I'd like to believe our son is going to be coming home soon," said Mrs. Hoehn of her 19-year-old son, Marine Pfc. William Taylor.

It seemed to be the night soldiers' families had been waiting for and praying for, the night many thought would somehow never come.

"I'm so excited. I just can't stop crying. I'm sitting here staring at the TV," said Mrs. Bokeno, who only three days earlier refused to believe allied forces were routing Saddam Hussein's army.

But the cease-fire order fell short of the hopes of Paul Randazzo Sr., whose son, Staff Sgt. Ronald M. Randazzo, 24, of Glen Burnie, was killed by Iraqi fire last week.

"I'm a little angry about it because they didn't take this guy [Saddam Hussein] down. . . . My son died for a cause, and the cause was to destroy this man."

And not everyone was blindly optimistic about what the president had to say.

William Alli, who has two sons in the Marine Corps now deployed in the gulf, said he was pleased at the message and hopeful the Iraqi government would accept the president's terms.

But Mr. Alli, who heads a statewide family support network aimed at prevention of another war, looked to a world of armaments sales and said, "The question to ask now is whether they will have to do it every five or seven years."

Emma Byrne, a Columbia peace activist, wanted to know what the world would require of President Hussein after the war. "How much are they demanding of Saddam, that he crawl on his knees?" she asked.

Ms. Byrne also said the untold costs of the Persian Gulf war may yet affect the public's view of the war. "People with conscience are bound to be considering how many thousands were killed," she said.

Roy Novak of Westminster had his "ear to the radio all day, hoping for the best." Driving his 4-year-old stepson, David, to the baby sitter's yesterday morning, he tried to explain to the youngster that the recent battle successes meant "Mommy might be able to come home a lot sooner."

His stepson "just sat there with a blank expression on his face," he said. And it became clear to Mr. Novak that until his wife, Maryland National Guard Spc. Bridget Novak, "walks through the door," the war won't be over for David.

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