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    A chance sighting on Web brings joy to Tampa woman

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 30, 2003
    [AP photo]
    This photo of Spc. Shaun Urwiler looking at mail was seen on the Web by his girlfriend. It was her first news of him in the war.
    TAMPA -- Emily Macfarlane got a birthday surprise she'll never forget.

    On Saturday, the day before she turned 21, Macfarlane was checking her e-mail on Yahoo! when she decided to search for pictures of the war in Iraq.

    Macfarlane's boyfriend of several years, Spc. Shaun Urwiler, is with the Army in Iraq. They used to talk every day, but since the war began she hadn't heard from him.

    All of a sudden, there was Urwiler on Macfarlane's computer screen. An Associated Press photographer had made a picture of Urwiler opening his mail on Saturday in a desert near Karbala. It was the first mail delivery for the troops in Iraq since they left Kuwait.

    The photo on the Web was the first Macfarlane and Urwiler's family had heard of Shaun in weeks.

    "I was just thrilled to know that he was alive, that he was okay, because when you don't hear anything, you just don't know," said Macfarlane, a student at the University of South Florida. "I was thankful to see that he was fine and well. I miss him to pieces."

    Urwiler, 26, is serving in the A Company 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd Infantry Division. A southern New Jersey native, he went to school in Philadelphia and moved to Tampa several years ago.

    He joined the military on March 21, 2000, and was in active duty in Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., before heading to Iraq.

    When she saw the picture -- which only shows Urwiler's hands, but clearly shows him holding a letter from his mother and a photo of his four nieces -- she called Shaun's family to spread the good word.

    "I felt like a young kid when I saw it," said Larry Urwiler, Shaun's father. "I was thrilled."

    Larry Urwiler said he hadn't heard Shaun's voice since Feb. 20. Macfarlane received a letter from Shaun on March 27, but it was dated March 13 -- a week before the war began.

    "We have been doing lots of training on how to deal with people who surrender," he wrote. "I guess they think that the Iraq soldiers are going to be throwing up a lot of white flags. That is just fine with me."

    Macfarlane said the photo helped her have one of the best birthdays ever.

    "I couldn't have asked for a better present," she said. "I feel like I got to see him."

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