St. Petersburg Times
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Son waits while mommy is at war

Officer Michelle Petersen of Pensacola cares for 3-year-old when his mother is called to duty.

©Associated Press
March 22, 2003

PENSACOLA -- When Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephanie Seymour got orders for sea duty, she turned to another Navy woman who gladly agreed to take care of Seymour's 3-year-old boy while she was at war.

Zachary's arrival has been a life-changing experience for Chief Petty Officer Michelle Petersen, based at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

There's a blond whirlwind scooting around and a pair of new frogs, in addition to her three cats and three dogs.

"If there's a mud puddle, bug or a frog, he can find it," Petersen said of her godson. "He's really an outstanding boy. It was a shock at first, I'm not going to lie, but I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Zachary moved in after his mother, originally from Fresno, Calif., left in January for the Middle East. She is a flight deck director aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, helping launch planes for missions over Iraq.

Zachary's father was not around and his grandparents live in California, so Seymour turned to Petersen.

Petersen, an assistant public affairs officer for the Naval Air Technical Training Center, has known him since the moment of his birth, having been in the delivery room with his mother.

Petersen records Zachary singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and sends the tapes to his mother.

At times, though, Zachary gets grumpy. He says he wants his mommy. He cries.

Petersen reads letters and e-mails from his mother to Zachary. The e-mails, however, have stopped since the war started Wednesday and there's nothing definite about when the Roosevelt will return. Petersen, meanwhile, is to leave in November for duty aboard the USS Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship.

"I'm hoping they get back," Petersen said. "Otherwise, it's going to be a jam."

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