Friday, February 4, 2011

One's In Afghanistan, One's In Iraq

We have two sons. They were born in 1973 and they've been a source of pride and joy since the two moments when they were born - ten minutes apart.

So how did it come to be that one is in Afghanistan and one is in Iraq?

Back when the boys were seniors in high school, we finally came to the realization that it was too late to start making financial plans for college. We had six kids and the strain financially had been enormous for years.

It's more complicated than this, but in a nutshell this was the crux of our difficulties. When Mr. Right came home from the Air Force he'd accrued enough seniority to walk back into one of the highest paying jobs in the mill where he worked. And everything in our lives was based on that high paying job - our house, our habits, and our family. But when an opportunity arose for him to take an apprenticeship that would lead to no more shift work, we couldn't let him pass it up. He hated shift work and so did I. The only problem was that his pay plummeted. Conversely, as his pay plummeted, the bills spiraled, and for years it was all we could do to keep our heads above water.

Now the kids were in high school or had just graduated and I had an archaic philosophy that was about to shape the lives of both our sons. The boys had to go to college no matter what, because some day they would have wives and families and they needed to support them properly. What about the girls? Well, someday they should have husbands with educations that would allow them to support their families. If the girls went to college, great! But it wasn't vital in my mind like it was vital for the boys to go. Although they were both talented athletes with good grades, there were no scholarships for talented athletes with good grades. Then one day they came home and said that there were scholarships available for boys with good characters. Bingo!

The Army turned out to be such a good fit for them. One of their first challenges was to compete for a medal that required weeks of practice and tests. One hundred young men from their unit started the challenge. Three finished. Two were our sons.

The next big challenge was Ranger school - a test of endurance so challenging that men had lost their lives during it's course. To successfully graduate, a soldier has to prove himself capable of operating effectively under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress. And that doesn't come close to describing the physical endurance requirements, the sleep deprivation, and the sustained austere conditions they endure plus all the ways they can fail including, at the conclusion of the hardest 61 days of their lives, when they can be peered out. In other words, someone in each unit, after all their sacrifice and effort, is voted out. Both boys proudly wear Ranger tabs on their left shoulders.

I was determined to write this post without sounding like I was bragging but it seems like everything I write is bragging. It's not. I'm just telling you how it is. The Army was a great fit for both of them.

They both have Bachelors and Masters degrees and have taken advantage of just about every training opportunity that the Army offers. They've lived in or trained in dozens of locations in the United States - many together for awhile - mostly separated lately.

They have the most beautiful families you could imagine. Loving wives who sacrifice so much while their husbands are away and then open their arms and lovingly, gratefully embrace them when they return. Their children are all awesome and part of the reason has to be that their dads were never satisfied to be less than an integral part of their lives. They both have fine homes in lovely neighborhoods and both have beautifully renovated every property they've ever owned. They're very important in their families.

And they're very important in their jobs. They do things that the normal citizen could not begin to fathom. And their careers so far have been stellar with promotions we could only have dreamed of and experiences unparalleled in a normal lifetime.

So when I write a post like this or like this, I'm trying to say that I'm sad that they're making such an enormous sacrifice in being deployed. But what I should also be saying is that I'm proud beyond measure of our amazing sons. I'm proud of what they do and how stoically and conscientiously they do it. And I'm proud that they embrace yet another difficult challenge with one thought - there's a job that needs to be done well and he's the man to do it.

And that's how it came to be that I'm baking cookies tonight and tomorrow I'll send one box to Afghanistan and one to Iraq.


  1. Mary, I love your posts about these two. And maybe because I was an active duty military wife with my husband still in the Guard, but I never once doubted anything you said in this post. I never doubted your pride or their sense of duty to, not only our country, but to their families. It makes me swell with pride at men (and women) like your twins who take their job so seriously and completely. I feel an overwhelming gratitude for them and for their wives who do such an amazing job at holding down the fort. I'm thrilled that they have such a loving and wonderful family that can and does support them.

    It only makes me sad that you feel you need to justify your emotion of sadness with them being gone against your pride in their honor. Because it means that too few people out there understand this sacrifice that you all make.

    They continue to be in my prayers to return safely to the arms of their loved ones.

  2. OH Mary, This was the best post. I loved hearing about your family and SONS. I did not read this as bragging, one bit. You have every right to lift them up and let the world know how special they are. What AMAZING sons! I thank they from the bottom of my heart for their sacrifice. I know they will enjoy those cookies.
    I could not get over how much Beth looks like you, in that picture. And I see a little of Eli in the baby pictures of your boys.

  3. I echo what Kirsten said 100%. Keep these posts coming as often as you want.

  4. Kirsten said it all perfectly. Don't ever feel that you don't have every right to brag on these wonderful men in your life. We are all safer in our lives because of them and you should be proud and bragging from the rooftops. You raised good sons and I am proud to know their mother. XOXO

  5. When you send those cookies, know that the prayers of many grateful citizens go with them to your brave soldiers.

  6. It's remarkable how their paths took them to the army because it was their way into college, yet it fit them perfectly and helped their qualites of being amazing, intelligent and brave seniors in high school to some of America's finest soldiers.

    Great post by the way! I know they'll love to get your cookies!!!

  7. I really love this post. And I think it's perfectly fine if you brag about your sons. You're a proud Momma and I would do the same! I'm proud of them too and love to brag about them. There's a lot to brag about, that's for sure! Love all of the pictures, awesome!!


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