Parents Proud, But Worried

By Nancy Cicco

The Portsmouth Herald, Thursday, April 24, 2003

[The following article is courtesy of The Portsmouth Herald and Seacoast Online.]
Rye's Elli and Phil Cyr proudly hold a photograph of their son, Cpl. Nick Cyr, 21, a U.S. Marine who has been deployed in the Middle East since January [2003]. [Staff photo by Rich Beauchesne]

RYE -- Phil and Elli Cyr had little doubt their son Nick would one day become a Marine.

Their first hint of his future came when he was 4 years old and wore a camouflage outfit to his preschool.

"All the kids in the neighborhood -- he used to dress them up in cammies and play in the back yard," said Phil from his Birchwood Drive home on Wednesday.

These days, Cpl. Nick Cyr's "back yard" is Baghdad, and his work is anything but child's play.

Today, the 2000 Portsmouth High graduate is a military police officer with U.S. Marine Corps Task Force Tarawa, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Cyr's unit left for the Middle East on Jan. 12. His parents hope he'll return to the states by August, but they just don't know. Since Cyr is an MP, he's now being counted on to provide humanitarian service in Baghdad, Elli said.

Though the war may be winding down, the danger persists.

"By day they are farmers, by night they'll kill you," said Elli, quoting Nick's assessment of the Iraqis.

The wait for news about Nick is excruciating for his parents and his girlfriend, Hannah Czarick, of Hampton. Cyr's black Labrador retriever, Jiggy, is also without a master for the time being, Elli said.

The Cyrs - Phil, a former Marine himself who served for 33 years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam; and Elli, a special-needs teacher at Centre School - survive their oldest son, Jacque, who died in 1990. Also a former Marine, Jacque died in a motorcycle accident at age 24. It's unbearable for Elli and Phil to think they could outlive another son.

To stave off the worry, Elli continually replays the last message Nick left on the family's answering machine in a phone call from Iraq on April 2.

"I'm good," Nick's voice said as Elli replayed the message again Wednesday. "Got three (care) packages. ... We love ya, bye."

Elli also takes comfort from Marine Mothers Online, an Internet support group.

When she's not posting messages at the group's Internet site, she and Phil spend sleepless nights watching television, scanning the cable news channels for images of Nick.

One night last month, Phil got lucky watching FOX News when he saw video footage of Nick raising an American flag on top of a Humvee.

"Proud he's a Marine" is all Phil could say to describe the experience of unexpectedly catching a glimpse of his son.

The Cyrs hope more people begin to realize and appreciate the sacrifices being made by U.S. soldiers and their families.

The couple's front door is adorned with a Blue Star banner to signify Nick's service. Then there's the lighted candle in the window and the yellow ribbons that wrap the trees in the family's front yard. Elli said she wishes she saw more of the ribbons around Rye.

"I think the people ought to have support for the troops," said Phil.

The Cyrs send weekly care packages to their son. The boxes are filled with items such as cleansing cloths, baby powder, white socks, shaving cream and, of course, nonperishable food.

The Cyrs know the goods are desperately needed because the latest news they have about Nick is that he hasn't been able to take a shower in 35 days.

The couple hopes these simple care-package reminders of home bring comfort to Nick in the field.

"We're just so proud he's serving his country," Elli said.

Elli Cyr is a staff member at the Lane Memorial Library in Hampton