Bay Area parents worry about loved ones in Afghanistan

10:34 PM, Mar 12, 2012   |    comments
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Cindy and Allan Perry's son, Phillip Billodeaux, is on his fifth deployment and is currently stationed in Afghanistan.

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse after a U.S. soldier is accused of killing 16 civilians over the weekend.

The shooter is said to be a 39-year-old U.S. Army sergeant who broke into three separate homes in two villages as the people were inside sleeping. He's accused of gunning down 16 people who were all unarmed: 4 men, 3 women, and 4 girls between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. Five boys between the ages of 8 and 12 were also killed.

The killings are said to have been so brutal that he's believed to have put a gun in the mouth of one child before firing and he stomped on another child before setting their bodies on fire.

Now, the Taliban is vowing to get revenge for every single death and that has family and friends in the Tampa Bay Area who have loved ones stationed in Afghanistan deeply concerned.

Cindy and Allan Perry can't be any prouder of their 34-year-old son, Phillip Billodeaux. They're also deeply concerned for his safety. The Largo High school graduate is with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. He's on his fifth deployment and is stationed in Afghanistan right now.

Allan says, "At one stage, he got offered to come home early and he declined it and said he couldn't leave his men. He felt he had to be there with them, because why should he come home and they have to stay? He's dedicated and that's where he wants to be."

Cindy adds, "It's very scary. We not only have our son over there, we have friends that have children over there and they are not in such a safe area, or such a secure area, so you just don't know what you're going to hear or what's going to happen. I do lose sleep over it."

The Perrys are worried over the Taliban's threats of retaliation  for the murders of the Afghan villagers.

Professor Chris van Gorder is an associate professor for Religious Studies at Baylor University. He explains when those attacks are most likely to happen. He says, "In most instances, it would be a 40-day period of mourning for a Muslim family and it would probably be after that time that the U.S. forces might be at the greatest risk."

Professor Chris van Gorder says many Afghans are still angry at a video showing four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three Taliban fighters, but that's not the only recent incident they're likely upset about.

He says, "The Koran burning last week and other incidents -- these incidents have just inflamed the entire context and makes it quite precarious -- quite difficult for any effort to trust and building friendships."

Cindy Perry adds, "It's something that right now is part of the world and it's something that's happening and you have to learn to live with it. You just pray for the best."

While the name of the Afghanistan shooter hasn't been released, we do know he was a trained sniper. He's been in the military for 11 years, is married with two children, and served three tours in Iraq. This was his first deployment to Afghanistan.

While the U.S. government says he acted alone, many people in Afghanistan say there's no way he could have committed those acts alone.

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