By Christine Johnson-
There are many defining moments that being a parent have caused a great deal of stress and also those where you can’t imagine yourself being more proud. My oldest son, Jared, who will turn 24 this summer; has been the cause of both recently.
He decided that he wanted to serve our country so in June of 2012, he enlisted in the Army. Nine long weeks in basic training with absolutely no communication was almost unbearable. We flew to Ft. Jackson for the graduation and finally got to see him. He looked amazing. Over that short period of time my son had been transformed into a soldier. I couldn’t imagine a moment where I was more proud.
Then, almost 3 years to the date of his enlistment, he got deployed… heading to Iraq for 9 months. I’ll never forget the night he called to tell me. I tried so hard not to cry. To stay focused on what he was saying and ask questions to try and calm my mind. My heart was racing and my head was screaming, “No”, “Not Jared”, “Not my son”. Please God, don’t let this be happening.
I started plotting, trying to think of ways to keep him from going. Did the Army have an 800 complaint line? Maybe I could drive to Ft. Bragg and kidnap him? Yeah… right!
It took several days, after breaking the news to my daughter, family and friends, before I realized… He’s happy. This is what he wants. I have to support him. It helped bring some peace to my troubled mind.
He was able to come home for a week and a half and was even able to be home for Mother’s Day. His younger brother, Jordan, who is attending college in Ohio, was able to come home too. I was so thrilled that we all got to be together before he deployed.
I remember watching him walk past airport security to get on the plane back to Ft. Bragg, knowing it would be almost a year before I would see him again. My daughter and I hugged each other, not able to hold back our tears any longer.
He flew out on Sunday, June 13th, at 6am. He sent me a text with a picture of him, in his uniform, holding his weapon, in front of the 82nd Airborne sign. I looked at this young man, my soldier, and once again was filled with pride.
He ended up flying to Germany, then Kuwait and finally Baghdad. When he can, he sends me messages letting me know where he is and that he is okay. Getting his messages helps me forget that he is thousands of miles away. Once he gets settled, he’ll finally have internet so we can text and Facebook message. Someday, I’ll figure out how to Skype so I can actually see him! He is able to call occasionally, and hearing his voice reassures me. He tells me about where he is living – in a shipping container converted into living quarters. It is extremely hot – 105 degrees. But it is a dry heat… okay?! The Army keeps boxes of water bottles everywhere so they can stay hydrated.
I listen to the news and hear about bombings, invasions and soldiers being killed. I have to turn off the TV. I pray every day. Not just for him, but for all our troops. I pray for other moms and family members who have loved ones there too. I pray for peace and war to end. I pray for their safety and safe return home. They have given their lives to protect our country and our freedom.
I am counting the days until he comes back. I get up every day and put on my mask, to hide my fear and emotions. I go to work. I grocery shop. I clean my house… all the “normal” day to day things. I’m hoping time will pass quickly and soon I’ll be seeing him and giving him a hug. Until then, I’ll just continue to be a mom – one who is very proud.