April 4, 2003
By SHERRI CONER
Daily Journal staff writer
If Platoon Sgt. 1st Class John Dugger, 37, is deployed to the Middle East, his wife will not have a ride to her job.
In 1995, Loretta Dugger was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her legs tingle and go numb. So she doesn’t drive anymore.
Loretta uses a walker to get around her job at Franklin Meadows. She uses a scooter at home.
But she depends on John to help her get in and out of the family vehicle. John transports Loretta and both of their children wherever they need to go.
Saying goodbye to John while he serves the country is not new, Loretta says.
When their children were babies, John left the family on base in Germany. He was away on a five-month tour in the Persian Gulf.
During her husband’s absence, Loretta depended on the family-like support of other wives living on the base. But that happened long before Loretta was diagnosed with MS.
Along with serving 16 years in the transportation unit for the National Guard, John also works for FedEx.
On Valentine’s Day, he was placed on alert. And since then, John and Loretta have prepared for the very real possibility that John will be deployed.
He could claim hardship to avoid possible deployment, John says.
But he won’t.
“It’s my job to go,” John says from the family’s Trafalgar kitchen. “A lot of people in today’s society, they don’t live up to what they say. If they call me and tell me I gotta go, I’ve got to go.”
They worry about finances, insurance and Loretta’s medical needs, especially a $1,100 monthly bill for four injections. These medications help slow the progression of Loretta’s disease. And John’s present medical coverage meets this responsibility. But if John is deployed, insurance coverage might not be stable.
“That scares me a lot,” Loretta says of the uncertainty.
The family van and car are for sale, John says. They hope to sell both vehicles, purchase a van that sits lower to the ground and get hand controls installed. That would be Loretta’s only option to transport herself and the children in John’s absence.
For now, neighbors and co-workers promise assistance to Loretta if John leaves the country. And their family appreciates the support, Loretta says with a smile.
Jessica Dugger, 14, and her younger brother, Shawn, 12, struggle with reality. Any day, their dad might not drive a few miles away from home to Camp Atterbury. Instead, their dad might be on the other side of the world, for a year or more.
“I don’t want this to happen,” Shawn says. “I don’t want my dad to go.”
In a soft voice, Jessica says her deepest fear is that her dad won’t come back.
Loretta shows a gold guardian angel necklace dangling around her neck, a Christmas gift from her husband. If he is deployed, she will send the necklace with John to the Middle East.
“I think I want him to have the angel,” Loretta says. “I’ll have the
kids. We’ll just do the best we can.”
Copyright © 2003 The Daily Journal