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The empty spaces back home

The GALYONS

A Marine's mom takes in his new wife and baby to share their common vigil in Spring Hill.

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Newlywed Lynn Phan Galyon holds stepson Blake Lee Galyon, 7 months old, and a photo of husband Jimmy Lee Galyon, a 20-year-old Marine who was sent to Kuwait in February.

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 23, 2003


SPRING HILL -- Jimmy Lee Galyon graduated from Springstead High School two years ago and entered the Marines. After he finished boot camp, he returned home to visit his mother in Spring Hill.

The date was Sept. 11, 2001.

Jimmy's mother, Georgia Busby, knew that the devastating attacks meant war. And she knew her son, a newly minted Marine, would be swept up in it. That has proven true.

Now 20, Jimmy was sent to Kuwait in February as part of the massive troop deployment in advance of the war that began last week.

About a week and a half ago, Jimmy phoned home from Kuwait. A couple of his letters arrived shortly thereafter. But since the war began, his family has been left to watch the news and wait.

"I don't really worry about it. I just try not to think about it," said Busby, who lives in Spring Hill. "But he should be okay."

Busby admits that, since Sept. 11, she has cried many tears for her son, who was running track at Springstead just two springs ago. But she's not alone in her worrying. Still at home with her is Jimmy's brother John, a student at Springstead.

And then there is the family Jimmy acquired in California.

After a whirlwind two-week courtship, he married 22-year-old Lynn Phan Galyon in October. And Jimmy has a 7-month-old son, Blake Lee Galyon, from a previous relationship. Both have come to live in Spring Hill with Busby while Jimmy is away.

Lynn says she was so distraught at watching Jimmy leave her side that she couldn't say goodbye to him the morning he left. She couldn't eat or sleep when she first came to Florida. Now that the war has begun, she finds herself glued to the television and hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Still with her is the memory of how they met. Lynn and a girlfriend went down California's Interstate 5 toward Oceanside looking to meet some Marines from Camp Pendleton. On the way, they passed a car on the interstate that Jimmy was driving. Another Marine was with him.

At 80 mph, the couples exchanged cell phone numbers and agreed to pull over to get some food. Things didn't work out for the other pair. But Jimmy and Lynn were married 16 days later. "I guess it was love at first sight," Lynn said.

Four months later, Lynn finds herself living on the other side of the country with the family of her new husband and caring for his child, whom she now considers her own. "I have learned to accept being a Marine's wife. He is doing his duty. And being his wife, I am going to support him," Lynn said.

For Busby, who still thinks of Jimmy -- her firstborn -- as her "pride and joy," there is the lingering image of the last time she saw him. He was getting on a bus and carrying a rifle. And there is the memory of their last conversation.

"He wants to take Saddam himself," Busby said. But he also wants to come home.

"Mom, I want them to get this over with," are his words she recalls from their last chat.

"Me, too," was her reply.

-- Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com .

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