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Fear Grows Among Relatives of ‘Detainees’

August 18, 1990

Undated (AP) _ Pessimism enveloped relatives of American expatriates as Gulf tensions moved up another notch and Iraq said foreigners there and in Kuwait would be the first to suffer if a U.S. economic blockade makes food and medicine scarce.

The latest Iraqi statement about the detainees could be just ″more chest- thumping,″ said Donnita Cole, of Odessa, Texas, whose 50-year-old husband John Henry Cole was working for an oil company in Kuwait. She added:

″I think we’ve got a big problem on our hands, and I don’t think protocol is going to work anymore. I think we’re going into a war.″

″This is, I guess, what we thought about and hoped it wouldn’t be a problem,″ said Bob Nickman of Pleasonton, Neb.

Nickman, whose son Mike is stranded in Iraq, said he feared Americans and other foreigners might suffer more than Iraqis from any shortages.

″The Iraqi people would probably favor themselves,″ he said. ″That’s natural.″

Iraq, which imports three-fourths of its food, said Iraqi and foreign babies and elderly people will be the first to feel the effect as the nation ensures that food goes to its soldiers first.

The Baghdad government is detaining 3,000 Americans, 4,000 Britons and about 14,000 other Westerners among the more than 2 million foreigners caught in Iraq and Kuwait when Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait.

In a television interview broadcast Friday on ABC News, Mike Nickman said he would like to leave Iraq ″as long as there’s anything possible that could happen here.″

″I would rather be out of here,″ the blond-haired Nickman said calmly, adding, ″I miss my kids.″

In Brockton, Mass., Dennis Trundy, husband of Mary Trundy, whose twin brother is in Kuwait, said of the Iraqi statement:

″How do you react to that, it’s just insane. This whole thing is mess. I dont know how they’re going to get them out. I have a feeling it will come to a conflict. . . . They’re not free to go.″

Mary Trundy’s brother, 43-year-old John Stevenson, had been working as a computer systems analyst for a bank in Kuwait.

For the Trundys the tense wait is familiar. In 1979 they waited several days as Stevenson escaped from Iran, just hours before militants took over the the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Stevenson had been working for a computer firm in Iran. ″It’s like history repeating itself,″ Trundy said.

Mrs. Cole, whose 50-year-old husband John Henry Cole is among the detainees, said she has two sons in the Army, one on his way to Saudi Arabia and the other on standby, and a son-in-law in the Air Force who’s also on standby.

″I’m worried to death,″ she said. ″I’ve known they were serious all along. This has been serious since the day it started, because you have to remember who you’re dealing with.″

A tearful Marjorie Walterscheid of Jacksboro, Texas, said she is very upset about the statement, but it hasn’t changed her opinion about the outlook for her husband Rainard Walterscheid, 52.

″Well, I don’t know that it’s made a big change in my attitude because I’ve considered them hostages from the beginning,″ she said. ″I’m angry today, because there hasn’t been anything done to get them out. I want my husband out without bloodshed. I think it should have been negotiated.

″I want my husband home. I have loved this country for 49 years, and I think my country should love me enough to bring my husband home.″

Even before Saturday’s announcement, people like Patricia Heath of Farmington Hills, Mich., were getting pessimistic.

Her brother, Kevin Bazner, his wife, Dawn, and their children, Elizabeth, 6, and David, 6 months, were stranded after their plane stopped in Kuwait to refuel during the Aug. 2 invasion by Iraq.

After Iraq announced Friday that it was detaining the Americans, along with citizens of other Western countries, Heath was dismayed.

″When I first heard that, I was real negative and it was probably the worst day I’ve had,″ Heath said.

″This is the hardest thing. Up to this time, we knew their routine and now that is gone, we don’t know where they are,″ said Virginia Bazner, Kevin and Patricia’s mother, from her home in Palms Desert, Calif., home. ″Our strength is beginning to wane, but we’ve got to remain strong.″

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