Does a mother ever get to the point where she can look at the amazing man her son has become and still not see her little boy?
I choke up whenever I see this picture. My little boy in full body armor is not a comforting image a mother likes to see. I look at this image and I am reminded of the first BB gun Will got…his only request for his 9th birthday. (I, of course, thought he’d shoot his eye out.) I’d like to have that little boy back again, to sing Happy Birthday to, make him his favorite cake and hold in my arms again.
Before he left for his first deployment, I lectured him hard. I said, “Do NOT be a hero. I want you home in one piece. Do your job, keep your head down and don’t take any chances.”
He looked at me with his crystal clear, baby blue eyes, broke into a big cheesy smile and with more than a subtle note of sarcasm said, “Yeah mom, cause that’s the way you raised me, right???” (Seriously this kid has a smile that can melt ice and his baby blues actually twinkle!)
I hate it when he’s right. I raised him to be exactly what I was now telling him NOT to do. I taught him to defend the weak, to slay dragons and to be strong, brave and courageous, especially when it’s hard to do so. But to my defense, I’m pretty sure it’s what all of us red blooded, wonderful, wacky, moms do. We teach our children to be fiercely loyal to God, family and country. We drag our kids to every 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day parade and teach them to stand with their hands on their heart as the vets walk …or in wheelchairs, roll, by. We teach them about the sacrifices that were made by so many, that we might all enjoy the freedom we have today.
So, when my son, like his sister before him, choose to join the USAF I was very proud. In the back of my head I knew he’d eventually have to be deployed but I tried to not think about it. But then it happened. It was his turn to go. I cried for two days and it was something like four months away! Once he was gone, I’d catch myself almost hyperventilating at the thought of him being there. When he sent home this picture, with the same big, charismatic smile he’d given me before he left, I sobbed uncontrollably. Do NOT let my smile in this photo fool you. I was inconsolable.
My son is home now. He is now a Major in the JAG (that’s fancy, military talk for being a lawyer) and he is based at the Pentagon. I will never pretend to be happy that my son had to go to war. However, I am so proud of him I could burst. I am grateful for all the young men and women like him choose to serve our country and stand ready to defend our freedom… but I’m still not happy about it.
Mothers should not have to bear sending their children to war. Somehow, I think things might be different if wars were decided by mothers whose children would be the ones fighting. War would simply be a concept and not a reality. No mother would ever tolerate it… from any country.
A side note about my son’s wife: It’s tough on my son, having to leave his family for his military obligations, but it’s even tougher on his wife and their five kids. Today, in hindsight, as I think about her, JoAnn, is the real hero of this story. She selflessly held down the front line and kept the home fires burning with a houseful of little kids with the youngest only being 4 weeks old at the time he left. (Tell me that isn’t the tougher job!) She is amazing– strong and tough as nails. She never complained and is still, today, giving my grandchildren a rock-solid foundation at home. The smartest, most clever thing my son ever did was to convince her to marry him! Oh yes, my son chose well.
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