It wasn't easy saying goodbye to their son Chris as he left for war in a foreign land, but Pat and Ray Kobyra of Little Rocky Run had to do just that.
"It was hard for all of us, but he's very committed to what he's doing," said his mom, Pat Kobyra. "You always want your child to be safe, but we're very proud of him."
An Army first lieutenant, Chris, 24, also has a brother, Keith, 22, who works in New York, and a sister, Lauren, 16 1/2, a Paul VI junior. Chris is a 1997 graduate of Centreville High, where he ran varsity track and cross country.
He received an ROTC scholarship to Radford University and majored in criminal justice. His mom's a curriculum supervisor at St. Timothy School and dad retired from the federal DEA and now works for the federal air marshal program. Not surprisingly, Chris is considering a career in the Army, possibly followed by a stint in federal law enforcement.
After graduating from Radford in 2001, he began active duty at Fort Benning, Ga., and then joined the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., in January 2002. Says his mother: "He parachutes out of airplanes."
However, Chris also found time for romance and, last June, he married Lisa, a girl he'd met in college. They lived at Fort Bragg until Chris had to deploy on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. "We all knew it was going to happen, sooner or later," said Pat Kobyra.
"He called and told us he was packed and ready to go, and we drove down to say goodbye to him," she said. "I think the fact that he was nervous, but happy to be going, helped us all. And his wife is very supportive."
Chris was in Kuwait for five or six weeks prior to going into Iraq on March 27. His parents later received a letter written that day, before he left for battle.
"It was a beautiful letter," said his mother. "He said he wanted to let us know that he loved us very much and he carried pictures of us next to his Bible — and that they were his two most important possessions. He said our faith gave him courage and his Bible gave him strength."
Then, said Kobyra, Chris "described what each of us meant to him and said he felt ready for whatever lay ahead. He said he had good leaders and good training and felt confident that they'd all come back safely."
His family has sent him Girl Scout cookies, lip balm, moistened wipes, foot powder and Kool-Aid mix. Last his mother heard, Chris was among those guarding the supply lines for the coalition trips traveling from Kuwait to Baghdad.
Until he returns home, his parents are intently watching the war news on TV. Said Pat Kobyra: "My husband and I feel better when we know what's going on, so it helps."