Monica Yant Kinney | Highs and lows: Printing the Baghdad weather helps.
As reader requests go, Margie Miller's seemed more than reasonable. "I've been trying to get The Inquirer to include the weather in Baghdad on the list of international cities," she said in a voice-mail message.
As reader requests go, Margie Miller's seemed more than reasonable.
"I've been trying to get The Inquirer to include the weather in Baghdad on the list of international cities," she said in a voice-mail message.
"Our son is one of 160,000 Americans in Iraq. And it's getting very hot over there."
In under 100 words, Miller captured every military mom's fear and frustration.
Hearing her out was well worth the drive to Chester County, and not just because she was contemplating dropping the paper over the fact that the rain in Spain was deemed more important than dry heat in the Middle East.
"As a parent, you always want to place your kids," Miller, 53, explains over coffee at her 200-year-old stone house in the village of Marshalton, with a blue service star in the front window and a West Point mural painted in the hall.
It's easy to call her youngest son, Patrick, at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana to remind him to wear a coat when it's cold.
It's easy to imagine how her oldest, Luke, a lawyer, is faring a couple of hours away in Virginia.
But Matt, her middle son, is stationed in Baghdad.
A true hot spot
Miller is a weather worrier by way of marriage. Her husband, Joe, 55, retired as a colonel after a 26-year Army career that took the family to Germany and Hawaii and a half-dozen zip codes in between.
The Millers have been obsessed with the highs and lows in Iraq since August, when Matt, a 2004 West Point grad, got his assignment in the Ninth Engineer Battalion doing road-clearing and IED sweeps.
Phone calls are rare. And when Matt e-mails, Margie Miller says, "he just wants to know what's going on here at home."
The son's standard response to his mother's questions? "I'm fine. We're holding up. It's getting hot."
It's like that movie, Joe Miller says. "Every day is Groundhog Day in Iraq."
Thinking about Matt is his "first thought in the morning and last though at night," he tells me.
Knowing how hot it is in Iraq gives the former soldier "an idea of what kind of day Matt is having," how heavy his gear feels, how much he's sweating inside his uniform."
Margie Miller knows that in July and August, temperatures in Iraq can reach 120 degrees.
She hopes that seeing blistering Baghdad listed alongside more hospitable places, such as Prague and London, will make people appreciate those who sacrifice so the rest of us can plan vacations.
"During World War II, everyone's lives changed," she says. "This time, that hasn't happened."
A victory for Mom
I promised to help ease Miller's mind. The next day, Baghdad bumped Auckland off the weather chart.
Miller sent me a lovely thank-you e-mail. But it turns out she's the one who deserves the credit.
Unbeknownst to either of us, one of Miller's many meteorological messages reached John Brumfield, a colleague on the national-foreign desk, before I could start nagging. He was already working on the case.
"I'm surprised nobody ever noticed it before," Brumfield tells me. "She should get a free subscription for this. It's really a no-brainer."
Miller was thrilled with the weather note, "even though it's going to be 105 degrees in Baghdad this week."
One down, one to go, she says. Now, how about adding Kabul?
In case you forgot, 25,000 Americans are still in Afghanistan looking for Osama bin Laden.
In 1996, the Taliban destroyed meteorological offices in Afghanistan under the idea that forecasting the weather was akin to "sorcery" and that only God can legitimately predict the future.
Last week's Kabul forecast? A high of 84 degrees and low of 23. It's the winters that can be wicked.
Miller would be fine if both cities were temporary additions to the climatological conscience, disappearing from the weather pages when the troops are out of harm's way.
She takes me outside to show me that blue service star on her window.
"The happiest day of my life will be when I can take that down," she says. "But I have to keep it up until they all come home. It's too easy to forget."