Our Pride, His Courage- A Deployment

Denise Pierson And her son Chris.

Denise Pierson and her son Chris.

Give a warm welcome to my special guest, Denise Pierson. Denise has been a school teacher for 25 years. She is the mom of two wonderful boys and two extraordinary step children. She currently lives in Alexandria, VA with her supportive husband, Chris. Thank you Denise for raising a courageous young man, who strives to make the world a better place. Thank your husband and your son for their service.

This is her story:
“Mom I have been selected for OCS” (Officer Candidate School), my oldest son Chris relayed to me several months after college.  With many job interviews and not many prospects of gainful employment, my son was accepted in the Army.

It doesn’t hit you all at once; it takes several months and many opinions from friends and family to finally realize the ramifications of this decision. Probably the hardest part of all of this is that our country is currently at war in lands foreign to us.  We have become all too familiar with noticing the burden born by the sons or daughters of other parents.  When the call comes to your door and it is your son that takes the challenge, everything immediately changes for you.

The initial feelings of pride and excitement are coupled with the heart stopping feeling that at some point my son will be put directly in harms’ way. Never a moment goes by without being attached to my cell phone. There are many sleepless nights. This has become my normal.

The process of becoming a military family starts immediately. Thankfully my husband Chris, my son’s stepfather, is a retired Navy commander whose sound judgment during all of these stages has made the adjustments somewhat easier for me.  However, when it is your child, it is a completely different feeling. As mom’s, one of our main jobs is to protect our kids, not to send them to a place where they could be harmed.

From Basic to OCS, to the most arduous instructions for nine weeks at Ranger School, continuing to Airborne training, just begins to get you accustomed to your soldier living far away.  Chris’ journey continued from Fort Jackson to Fort Benning and eventually landed him at the 10th Mountain Infantry division at Fort Drum, New York.

At Fort Drum, Chris has been leading a platoon of strong and courageous men that have been training to get ready for their deployment. While he was there, we were able to enjoy some home visits that allowed us numerous opportunities to catch up.

All this training, coupled with the worry of what comes next, almost makes you ready. I made sure to have as much time as possible with my soldier before his departure. The day he was leaving, I stood back and watched. I noticed that the boy I raised had become a man.

His leadership skills were respected and the traits we all love about Chris are the same reasons why his men seem to appreciate him so earnestly. I was grateful to have the ability to have this time together before he left. It did seem to make it somewhat easier to say good-bye.

Not that the tears don’t come, they come later when you aren’t prepared. They feel like waves of sadness. With this sadness, you have to muster up courage from reservoirs of strength that you initially couldn’t even imagine you had.

As his deployment continues, and there are months between seeing him in person, I have become a stronger mom. I have become a better person and the challenges that I didn’t think I could survive—I have done just that.

I do feel very fortunate to be at the heart of our military in our nation’s capital.  I need to stay extremely busy by surrounding myself with many activities that have meaning to me.  The best part of my week has been in becoming a volunteer at the USO Wounded Warrior Center at Fort Belvoir.  By supporting these brave men and women who serve here and far from their homes, it makes me feel closer to my son.  Therefore in return, I know that his service will be appreciated and thanked by another volunteer somewhere else in the world.

My Dearest Son, I love you more than you will ever know and words can’t adequately express the deepest feelings I have for you. I pray every minute that you will return to us soon and unharmed. I remain grateful for your service, courage and commitment to make the world a better place for all of us.

Love Your Proud Army Strong Mom

Please pray for Denise, her son Chris, and all of our troops that they may return safely to the families that love them.

The Story Continues

Update: This is what the art installation looks like for Kathy’s quote at Sarasota National Veterans Cemetery in Florida.

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Brad, Kathy Sargent,Andy copy

Brad, Kathy, and Andy

Andrew, Timmy, Bradley

Please give a very warm welcome to my guest, Kathy Sargent. Kathy, author of the chapter “Army Mom, Serving in the Silent Ranks” in Love You More Than You Know is the proud mom of three military sons. A quote from Kathy’s chapter is being used in a public art instillation at Sarasota National Veterans Cemetery in Florida to inspire and honor our military families. Congratulations Kathy. You and your sons make this world a better place.

The story continues….Timothy’s wish to join the Army, has come true. He is a trained combat medic with an expert field medic badge. He has followed his brothers, and his dreams.

Bradley, is now married to a beautiful former soldier, Maria. They have been blessed, and have blessed me with a darling granddaughter, Isabella. Currently, Bradely and Maria are living in South Carolina, but I have been informed that they will be moving to Alaska in the near future.

Andrew is now married to a beautiful soldier as well. Her name is Jess. They are raising my two granddoggers, Lupa; a German Shepherd, and Odin; a Golden Retriever. Andrew and Jess are currently living in Georgia. Andrew was forced to retire from the Army due to medical issues. This was hard for him, as he really enjoyed what he was doing. With the support of family and friends, I believe Andrew will be just fine.

Things have changed a lot with me, but have also stayed the same. I still worry about my soldiers, especially Timothy since he will be going back for a second tour of Afghanistan.  I’m thankful that I have my older sons to explain things to me, especially the former combat medic. But it still bothers me that I can’t protect my son.

I continue to read labels at the grocery store, and I notice others who do the same, with tears streaming down their faces. I show them my service banner pin on my jacket, smile, give them a hug and thank them for their service, as well as the service of their family member. I share things that pack and travel well, and just try to be there for them. Once you go on the journey of having a child deployed, you understand.

Prayers please for Timothy and all of our deployed service men and women.

My Littlest Angel: A Soldier and Her Pen Pal

Veronica and Sofie

Veronica and Sofie from their Face Book page

Chief Warrant Officer Veronica Davis completed three tours to Afghanistan.  One of the bright spots of her time during deployment was receiving letters from her youngest pen pal, Sofie Deck from Illinois. Sofie is in third grade. Not only did she write letters to Veronica, Sofie also sent drawings.

Veronica said, “Sofie’s letters are about everything good.” Sofie and Veronica continued to write, even after Veronica’s tour was over. Sofie describes Veronica as her hero and her best friend. Sofie memorized what Veronica wrote,” Take care little one. Continue to do great things. Make the world your canvas and paint joy everywhere. Love Veronica”

Sofie was recognized for showing home town support for our troops. We can follow this little angel’s lead. Sophie and Veronica are working on a new project. It’s called Sophie’s Soldiers: A Pen Pal Program. The project is to help students connect with soldiers overseas if they’re not doing it for school.

The Shield of a Soldier’s Love

Give a warm welcome to my very special guest, the inspiring Maureen Valenzi. This dedicated mother writes a daily blog following the journey of her deployed United States Marine at Maureen’s Marine.

Maureen’s Marine is a finalist for the 2012 Milbloggies (6th Annual) Best U.S. Military Parent Blog Award.

The beautiful format of Maureen’s blog goes straight to the heart and helps us understand the every day sacrifices of our Marines and their families.

Maureen, thank you for sharing your story and for raising such a brave and caring son. Ian helps make this world a better place. Holding Ian and all of our troops in prayer.

The Shield

Ian’s email to us
this week

was unexpected

again and still
he sounds 

centered
whole and calm

when he returns
from Afghanistan

I must remember…
to thank Ian for:

the shield from details
the wisdom to take the high road
the gift of peace he gives me

during this deployment

Ian consciously and
continuously protects me
from the nitty-gritty
heartache of war

no wonder I feel safe

by Maureen Valenzi

My Father’s Flag Connects Me

Follow my Blog Tour November 11-19, 2012

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Love You More Than You Know

The attack on 9/11 prompted my son to enlist in the Ohio Army National Guard. He said, “There is even more reason now than before.” Weeks before my son was to leave in December of 2003 for deployment to Iraq, my father, a WWII veteran, passed away.

My son was part of the honor guard and handed my father’s flag to my mother. When my son returned from Iraq, my mother returned the favor and handed my son, my father’s flag. Whenever I see our country’s flag, my heart beats faster and my eyes fill with tears. My father’s flag connects me to my two veterans in my family.

U. S. Veteran’s Day honors all of our veterans, who served past and present. God bless our troops and the country that we love. Take time to do something for a veteran for their faithful service. I will be saying thank you to my son by bringing him lunch at work.

Excerpt from my story, “Boots To Ground” in Love You More Than You Know Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War:

The sweet mournful sound of taps honored my father’s leaving, echoing in the cold December morning. The silence was shattered by a color guard firing a twenty-one-gun salute. Our country’s flag fluttered, as it lay draped over the casket of a hero, Joseph Vayo, a Navy veteran of WWII.

Reverently, the color guard folded this bright symbol of freedom into a triangle. My son, Specialist Joseph Reinart, Ohio Army National Guard, stepped briskly forward to receive the flag. Turning to my mother, Joe said, “ On behalf of the President of the United States of America, I present you with this flag for your husband’s faithful service to our country. May God bless you, and I love you, Grandma.”

Just weeks later, Joe was leaving. My son, my father’s namesake, was being deployed to the Middle East to serve his country. . . We made it through his fifteen months of active duty and deployment. Joe’s homecoming was February 11, 2005, a wonderful Valentine’s Day present. In the crowded cafeteria at a school in Youngstown, teary eyed, my Mom presented Joe with my Father’s flag for his faithful service to our country.

I Promise

Every week, someone asks me to pray for a son, daughter, friend, or in-law, deployed to Afghanistan. Last night,I saw my friend, Noel Burr at the grocery store. Her son and son-in-law are serving our country again.

When I was checking out, Becky Huston told me her son has a deployment coming up. I promised to pray for all their safety. Please join me in holding Dave, Thomas, Tim and all of our troops in prayer.

Almighty God, We ask your blessing upon our deployed troops, those on land, at sea and in the air in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Hold our Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen in the palm of your hand as they enter Harm’s Way. Protect them as they protect us in defense of liberty and the increase of freedom. Bless them and their families for the sacrifices and selfless acts they perform. Remind us all that courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to do the right thing in the face of fear. Be with us also here at home as we pray for their safe return and peace in our time. Amen.

-Chaplain (CAPT) Jane Vieira, USN

29 Years Ago- A Mother’s Story

Give a warm welcome to our guest, Lolly Crummett. Lolly is a United States Air Force Mom, a United States Marine Corps Wife (retired), a mom to three other wonderful young adults and a very proud grandmother.

Almost 29 years ago, I brought two beautiful mirror image identical twin boys into this world. They were 32 weeks premature and only weighted five pounds each. At the time, my husband was an Active Duty Marine, and we were stationed in Albany, GA. A long way from home for this little CA girl.

I sat there in GA and wondered how much further from home the Marine Corps could send us and still keep us in the United States. Then my husband got orders. We were going to Twentynine Palms, CA, a mere 3 hour drive from Momma and Daddy. Daddy was terminally ill,and I knew I wanted my 3 boys (I have a son 3 1/2 years older than my twins ) to have a chance to get to know their grandpa.

Danny, Jason, Tommie July 1985 

With the military, nothing is carved in stone until it happens. A month before our move my husband came home and told me we weren’t going to Twentynine Palms.  We were going to Hawaii, still in the United States, but 3,000 miles the other side of home. I was heartbroken.

I cried when I had to tell my parents. It turned out okay. Hawaii was part of my brother’s business territory so my boys got to see their Uncle Bum (yes, Uncle Bum, and my niece calls me Aunt Brat) four times a years when he came to Hawaii on business. My parents managed to come visit us once a year. I also managed to get home each summer for a few weeks to see the family.

After a three year tour in Hawaii, we finally got orders to Twentynine Palms, AGAIN, and this time they stuck. The boys and I and my pregnant belly came home early so I could spend some time with my parents and give the boys time to spend with Grandpa.

When I told Daddy I was pregnant, he immediately began referring to the baby as “she” something he’d never done with any of the other 5 grandchildren (all boys). They were always “it”. Daddy knew I was finally having the little girl we’d all wanted. He lived long enough to meet her, and passed away when she was 5 weeks old.

My own son, Tommie, one of my twins, is in the United States Air Force. This is July 2012 and he is preparing for deployment #7. He was home for Thanksgiving last year. It was the first Thanksgiving in 9 years that all 4 of my children were home together. It was also my precious grandson’s first Thanksgiving. It was the first time in 19 very long months that I saw my son, as he is now stationed in England.

Tommie and his mom and dad on his wedding day.

This will be his second deployment from England. He’ll be gone 6 months. Even though he’ll be back in February, expenses will prohibit him from attending his own twin brother’s wedding in April. Being deployed he’s missed countless birthdays, family gatherings, celebrations and funerals.

He was unable to attend his grandmother’s wedding because he was in Iraq. The Rabbi was great. He allowed me to keep my cell phone on “in case Tommie called” during the ceremony.

He missed his baby sister’s wedding. Leave was denied because he was within the deployment window where he couldn’t leave the country. With my beloved Daddy dying when Tommie was only 5 1/2, my uncle became a surrogate grandfather to my children. Tommie missed his funeral because he was deployed. When Tommie’s Godmother died, he couldn’t get leave to come say his last farewell to his beloved Aunt Lanie.

When your child joins the military, so do you. You make sacrifices along with your child. It’s part of the life they choose to lead. I’ve been a military wife for 35 years now. I’ve been a military mom for almost 11 years. They are two entirely different ball games. I knew what I was doing when I married my Marine.

When I gave birth to a helpless 5 pound baby, I had no intention of sending him to war once, let alone 7 times. He has seen and done things that only happen in my nightmares. His dad is a Vietnam Vet, so the two of them can talk about what they’ve seen and done in a way that they can’t talk to anyone else including my daughter in law and me. Do I like the decisions my adult son has made? Not always, but I accept and respect them.

I have four young adult children, and I am equally proud of all of them, but I must admit there is a piece of my heart reserved for Tommie that the other three can’t touch. I know each time Tommie goes to work, he’s laying his life on the line for our freedom. When he enlisted, he signed a check, made out to the United States of America in the amount of and up to and including his life if need be.

Serving our country runs in my son’s blood. His dad is a retired Marine, who is a Vietnam Vet. His uncle, my brother in law, was also a Marine, a veteran of both Vietnam and Korea in whose memory my son is named. My aunt and uncle both proudly served our country in World War II. My Grandfather (Tommie has his middle name ) served in World War I. It was inevitable that at least one of my children would serve our nation.  I fully expect to one day be the grandmother of a United States Service Member.

 

To Kandahar and Back Home: A Year in the Making

US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer is welcomed home by his wife, Amanda.

A warm welcome  and special thank you to my guest blogger today, Debra Estep, author of “Shoulder to Shoulder” in Love You More Than You Know. She is the proud Ohio Air Force Mom of SSgt Vincent Aleandri. This is Debra’s blog.

In early June of 2011, family and friends of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company gathered to attend a Call to Duty ceremony. 180 members were preparing to mobilize for active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Some were heading out for their first deployment, and others had been down this road before embarking on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th deployments. The soldiers and their families were well aware of the long year that lay before them. As the buses rolled away, tears rolled down so many faces. Young children could not grasp why Mommy or Daddy had to leave them.  Grandparents who could grasp the why, still had the same tears.

It takes great strength and perseverance to join the United States all volunteer military.   We’ve been at war for over a decade. Many of these young troops were in middle school when our engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq started. With the percentage of people serving being less than one percent of the population, many Americans don’t personally know anyone in the military.

I happen to know one of the soldiers from the 1484th Transportation Company–US Army Specialist Timothy Sheaffer. I met Tim when his Mother, Tanya Phillips, and I became friends years ago. I will never forget the first photo I saw of Tim in uniform. I did a double take thinking, this can’t possibly be that same KID. My heart filled with pride, grateful that we have individuals willing to stand and protect this country.

Tim said goodbye that June day, to his young wife, Amanda. In less than
six months, Amanda was due to give birth to their first child. Tim was in Afghanistan where he was able to view the birth of his baby girl, Brooklyn, via a Skype internet connection.  Family back here in Ohio, surrounded Amanda and supported her through the labor and birth.

Several weeks later, Tim was able to take his R&R returning to Ohio for a short visit.
Those of us who have a family member serving, thank God for today’s technology that allows us to stay connected to our loved ones far away.  Emails, videos, and phone calls, are all life lines to ours and our military member’s mental well being at such a stressful time.

On Saturday June 2, 2012, family and friends again gathered at the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. This day, there were tears also. These tears were tears of joy and gratitude. The Ohio Army National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company rolled in on buses after flying into Akron/Canton airport.There were cheers, flag waving and a band playing as the unit marched in. Some speeches were made, as the unit was thanked for their service.

The unit was stationed near Kandahar, Afghanistan. No one from the unit was killed in this deployment. Sgt. Michael Barkey, 22, a Lawrence Township member of the unit, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and eight others were wounded.

As this unit acclimates back to civilian life, we know that another unit has replaced them. Freedom is not free. The safety and security we enjoy is paid for by those who serve and those who give their lives.   Pray for them and please THANK them for their service !!!

Mom and Dad with darling baby, Brooklyn.

Students Send Thousands of Cookies Overseas

Nothing says “home” like cookies–chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies! The 25,000 soldiers from the 4th Battalion of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade couldn’t believe their eyes when they started receiving shipments of thousands of cookies in the remote regions of Afghanistan during their deployment. The sweet treats were sent with love from Kenston High School’s Interact Club.

Follow the lead of these teenagers. Show our troops you care!  Jean Bonchak, in her article in the New-Herald gave this information. Those wishing to send letters or snacks to the 4th Battalion of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade should address them to 4-401 AFSB, KAF; ASMC-LSE, BN XO; APO AE 09355.

The Ultimate Blog Party

Ultimate Blog Party 2012Who doesn’t like a party? So glad you stopped by. Come on in and stay awhile. Just like putting on a name tag, let me know that you were here and leave a comment, like LYMTYK on Facebook, or follow on Twitter or Pinterest. I would love to visit your blog too!

Love You More Than You Know honors our military and their families. I am the mother of a veteran and am so proud to share stories about our military heroes. As you browse through the site, you will read wonderful stories of courage, honor, and sacrifice. You might start with these stories. Just click on a picture.  Looking forward to meeting you. Have fun at the party!   Janie