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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

DENISE CONNOLLY OF Smallwood holds a photo of her son, Chris, after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He’s now on duty as a military policeman in Key West.

Willing, Not Wanting,
For War

By Ted Waddell
SMALLWOOD — February 7, 2003 – No mother wants to see her son go to war.
But in the wake of 9-11-2001, there is a growing feeling that war must be waged against worldwide terrorism.
It could be a conflict that will require the nation’s military sons and daughters to make sacrifices by writing their names in blood on sandy battlefields far from home – and cause mothers to weep in loss.
Denise Connolly of Smallwood is praying she won’t have to be such a mother.
She never raised her son Christopher to die in battle, but she understands why he chose to put his country first.
Even if it means dying.
“I have very mixed feelings,” she said about the prospect of war. “I don’t want to go to war – who the hell wants to go to war? – but are they going to come over here and start doing that stuff all over again?”
Chris Connolly graduated with honors from Monticello High School in 1996.
As an emerging actor, his folks saw him perform in “Lost in Yonkers” at the Forestburgh Playhouse – twelve times, in fact.
In 1995, he spent his junior year in high school as an exchange student in Japan, and in the same year he signed on the dotted line for a delayed enlistment in the U.S. Navy.
After graduation and completing basic training, he traveled the globe in service to his country. He served aboard the U.S.S. Blue Ridge, the flagship of the Seventh Fleet, based in Japan.
In June 2000, Connolly drydocked Navy life after finishing a four-year hitch.
He then enrolled in the International Fine Arts College (IFAC) in Miami, Florida to study acting, directing and screenwriting in hopes of getting a starring role in the film industry.
In his first semester at IFAC, Connolly pulled down a 4.0 grade point average – and once again signed on the dotted line by joining the Navy Reserves.
Then came the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001.
And Connolly sent an e-mail to his folks back in Smallwood.
“There will be a slight delay in my getting an Oscar . . . ,” he said.
In the wake of 9-11, his Naval Reserve unit was put on standby alert, and after two weeks, Connolly was ordered to leave college, repack his seabags and report for training at Norfolk, Virginia.
At Norfolk, he was selected as the honors graduate of his class after completing training as a Master at Arms.
Today, Connolly is still on active duty protecting Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, patrolling the perimeter with a combat-rigged 12-gauge shotgun.
“Do I want to go to war? Of course not, but what I want doesn’t matter,” said Connolly. “I signed on the dotted line. My job is to protect this country from its enemies, both foreign and domestic – terrorists, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention.
“How soon we forget about 9-11,” added the 24-year-old military policeman. “Our war with terror is not over. The American people know this. Suck it up! Let those in the military do what they’re paid to do: protect the citizens of this country from those who wish to destroy it.”
Connolly had a few words of advice to those who protest against a looming war with Iraq.
“For those who are actively protesting the war, remember it’s our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers who will be fighting for this country,” he said.
“If you don’t support the war, fine. But you better support the men and women putting their life on the line for that sign you’re holding.”
Back on the homefront, Denise Connolly had a lot to say about war and sacrifice.
“When I was a teenager, I was against our country’s involvement in Vietnam,” she said. “I did not support our government, but I did support our troops.”
In response to the question of what the United States should do if a direct connection is established between the Iraqi regime and 9-11-2001 and/or plans to supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, Connolly didn’t pull any punches.
“Take them out before they do it to us,” she replied. “But there’s that old saying, ‘Innocent until proven guilty.’
“Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I do understand why our government wants to go to war,” she added. “I support our government’s efforts to go after the terrorists responsible for the attack and also the leaders of countries who offer refuge and financial aid to those terrorists. . . . While our nation is under threat from more terrorist attacks, we cannot just stand by and wait till it happens again.
“This war is not about oil,” she said. “This war is about preserving the freedom Americans have and many take for granted.
“Chris is a true American son,” added Connolly. “He truly believes in his country and is willing to die for it.”
Editor’s Note: Denise Connolly was interviewed at her home in Smallwood. Chris Connolly offered his thoughts on the issues via the Internet from the Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida.

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