Laura Sokolowski is married to a soldier who has been gone for seven months.
Andrew Sokolowski is not part of Desert Shield. He does not get letters from American schoolchildren. He doesn't get free phone calls home to loved ones.But Andrew Sokolowski is serving his country at a hardship post abroad. He is one of 31,579 American soldiers in Korea. His tour is unaccompanied, meaning his family is not authorized to go with him. Part of the time he is assigned to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
While her husband is away, Laura Sokolowski has moved to Provo with her five children to live with her mother, Beverly Pratt. The Pratt household expanded from four people to 10 when Laura came home. It is now a three-adult, seven-children family.
"The hardest thing for us," said Laura, "is to hear about all the benefits for Desert Shield soldiers and their families. The rest of us (with spouses assigned elsewhere) are lonely, too."
With the threat of war, Andrew Sokolowski's time in service has been extended. His set of orders has 1998 as the termination-of-service date, Laura Sokolowski said. She does not know when she will see him again.
Andrew Sokolowski sent his wife part of a letter published in the military magazine Stars and Stripes. The letter writer asked for equal treatment for all armed-forces personnel in hardship posts abroad. "We are also being involuntarily extended for indefinite periods of time to cover for the gulf troops."
Army Lt. Col. Ren Allred said any tour outside the United States can be designated an unaccompanied tour. Allred is with the Army's Media Inquiries Branch in northern Virginia.
Free telephone calls home and other benefits are determined by economics, Allred said. While most soldiers on remote assignments are allowed a certain number of home calls at the government's expense for "welfare and morale," not all posts have the benefit.
Andrew Sokolowski spent Christmas on the other side of the world from his family, but he made the day brighter for a Korean orphan. Like many other soldiers in his unit at Camp Casey, Sokolowski "adopted" an orphan for Christmas. He bought presents for the child and ate Christmas dinner with him.
Laura Sokolowski wants to remind people that all military personnel serving hardship tours deserve to be remembered by Americans at home.