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Sept. 11 exacts a price on family
"I didn't know what I was going to do when I got home."
When Lynn Hicks hopped aboard an airplane heading to her Marine Reserve posting in Hawaii last October, this was one thought she was keeping largely to herself. A Langley attorney who serves as a lieutenant colonel, Hicks was part of a massive reserve call-up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She was also one of many Americans who saw their lives change indirectly due to the events of 9-11.
She left the island knowing she would be unable to rebuild her law practice; she wouldn't even have an office to return to because it had already been rented out to someone else.
As much of a concern as her professional life was her family. Hicks knew it might be up to her husband of 17 years, Jeff, to balance caring for their two teenage children, their small farm in the Maxwelton Valley, and his job at Boeing's Everett assembly plant.
She had good reason to be worried. Ending up in a six-month assignment in personnel management and outsourcing, she could only watch as a few things unraveled at home. In January, Jeff took early retirement from Boeing after discovering that the "home front" needed more attention than he could give it while commuting to and from work. After that, keeping up with the kids' school activities and home maintenance was easier. But leaving Boeing meant the family would be without a full-time income when Lynn Hicks came off reserve duty.
By April, the call-up was over and Marine reservists were being sent home. With spring coming on the island, she said she asked her commanding officer to head home a bit early to spell her husband from house duty.
"I told my boss that I had to get home and get him out of my garden," she said with a laugh.
Since then, the Hicks have begun piecing their lives back together, though not as they were before. Lynn Hicks now works as city prosecutor, attorney and administrator for the city of Langley. Her husband has just started a cabinetry and woodworking business in the shop next to their house. It's a good start, they said, but one that will cost their family income thousands of dollars a year, at least in the beginning.
It's a price many military reserve families are paying in the aftermath of 9-11, said Jeff Hicks.
"I don't think the average American realizes the financial hit a family takes when a family member is called up," he said.
There are other costs in addition to the lost income. To do her work in Hawaii, Lynn Hicks shipped her car to the island state and back again, a cost that is not reimbursed by the military. After flying home, she discovered that the shipping company sending her personal items back to Washington lost more than $2,000 of dress and other uniforms -- things she said will be difficult to replace. On top of that, Hicks will continue have to pay several thousand dollars of legal malpractice insurance this year, even though she no longer has a private practice.
Hicks said she has a good deal of sympathy for every other self-employed reservist called up last fall.
"We took hard hits," she said.
Her husband said he also feels for the families left behind.
"Losing 50 percent of the team blows the whole system," he said. "And that's where our family was."
However, both said they look forward to their new career paths, which will not be as likely to be interrupted by another reserve callup. Lynn Hicks is transferring into an inspection unit that should be almost immune to call-ups, while Jeff Hicks, who served as a Marine regular 20 years, is not in the reserves.