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Military families in Tampa Bay area weigh in on Iran developments

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-10 14:46:34-05

OLDSMAR, Fla. -- When people stop by Veterans Memorial Park in Oldsmar, they're met with a statue honoring Cpl. Frank Gross and a bench with his picture on it. It's a photo the American hero's father took of him.

"He was just an outstanding young man," said Cpl. Gross' father, Craig Gross, wearing dog tags with his son's photo.

Cpl. Gross was killed in action July 16, 2011 while serving in Afghanistan. He was on a recovery mission for a mine sweeper when they hit an IED.

U.S. Iran tensions

He was buried on August 19, 2011, what would have been his 26th birthday, at the same hour he was born.

Gross said his son always wanted to serve.

"My heart swells with pride, really," he said.

Gross said his son lived his life to the fullest, both in the military and outside of it.

"One of his favorite scriptures in the Bible was, 'whatever you do do it with all your heart as unto the Lord' and that’s the kind of guy that he was," Gross said.

This week, the gold star father is watching events with Iran unfold, starting with the killing of Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani.

"So at that moment and especially after I learned who this gentleman was, this terrorist, I was very proud of our country for doing what they did," said Gross.

Officials have linked Gen. Soleimani to the death of hundreds of Americans and coalition service members, and the injury of thousands more.

"I really, really believe it's very important that we as a nation, we need to stand at this time united behind our president and our government and we need to show the world that we as Americans are gonna stand up to tyranny," said Gross.

This week Iran responded releasing missiles at Iraqi air bases housing US troops. President Trump confirmed there were no casualties in a speech Wednesday, not threatening any further military action in response.

"This was showing some sort of strength and some sort of response to the assassination of Gen. Soleimani. But it seems the Iranian’s made a decision to send a message but avoid casualties because they want to avoid any direct military confrontation with the United States," said Sina Azodi.

Azodi is a ph. D candidate at the University of South Florida, specializing in international politics. He also works as a security analyst at a geopolitical risk firm in Washington, D.C.

"I think for now fortunately we have avoided war and we’ve dodged a bullet rather because he’s said Iranians are standing down and he’s decided to stand down so I think the situation will calm down. So in the short term I think we are rather in a stable situation. What will happen in the future we don’t know," said Azodi.

After hearing of Trump's speech, some military families welcomed the news.

"The new developments are quite scary. We are all so thankful that none of our warriors were injured. We continue to pray for our military, the best in all the world, and for our military families," said Barbara McGreal, the president of Blue Star Mothers of America, Greater Tampa Bay FL3, in a statement.

One family watching the news intently, included that of Tonja Anderson-Dell.

"Yes, it’s good news for me because hopefully at the end of the day, he’ll be coming home on an airplane back into his son’s life my daughter’s life," said Anderson-Dell.

She said her son-in-law, Sha-ron Anthony, was deployed Sunday out of Ft. Bragg serving in the Air Force. She described her 6-year-old grandson receiving the news, giving a Lego man to his dad.

"He said so that you’ll remember me while you’re gone. He said 'son I’m gonna remember you always.' And he goes 'well just so you have a piece of me while you’re over there.'"

Anthony also accompanied Anderson-Dell's grandfather home, U.S. Airman Issac Anderson Sr., last year. He died in 1952 when his military cargo plane crashed into a glacier during the Korean War and was not identified until decades later.

"When you’re a family you look at it a little bit differently because it’s your man that’s out there fighting you want him to come home. You understand he’s fighting for his country but at the end of the result you want him to come home walking through the doors and not carried through the doors," she said. "We’re on pins and needles we’re nervous all day long."

As developments unfold between the two countries, some military families call for a focus on the troops.

"We need to pray. We need to right now we need to seek God and we need to ask him for his guidance and his blessing. Then as Americans we really need to trust our soldiers who are out there fighting the fight for us. They’re the ones that we need to be most concerned about," Gross said.