Sitting on our sofa with tears streaming down my face my heart already ached for my 20-year-old son who was leaving that day for his second deployment. His unit was on their way to Iraq after being stateside just seven months upon returning from Afghanistan. One ironic aspect of Brian deploying today was the date; it was September 11, 2006, exactly five years from the day of the terrorist’s attacks. Five years from the day that our nation as whole, as well as individual families, was changed forever.
While trying to get a grip on my emotions about my son’s deployment, I thought back to that unforgettable day five years before. A day that started as usual, but on that unforgettable Tuesday morning my life, like so many other families changed forever. We didn’t personally know anyone that was affected directly by the tragedy, yet that horrific event is what brought us to the point where five years later our son was on his way to a war zone for the second time.
I remember the evening of the attacks as I watched the news coverage; 15-year-old Brian walked into the den, stood for a few minutes, expressed his anger at the situation and made his final decision to enlist in the Marines. He had been contemplating it for a while, but the senseless acts of that day sealed the decision in his mind. From that moment on millions of mothers’ lives, including myself, changed forever because their child chose to protect the country they loved.
Throughout the next three years as he finished high school, the war escalated, yet Brian never wavered and although I had concerns my pride in him and the maturity he was exhibiting with regard to serving in the world’s greatest military, helped alleviate those fears.
Another memorable day, which came to mind as I sat anticipating the unknowns of his second deployment, was that he graduated from boot camp on September 11, 2004, the anniversary of the day he chose to enlist. The immense pride I experienced as his unit walked across the parade deck was overwhelming. At the time I had no idea what his years of service would entail, but I knew that because of his determination and training he was prepared.
Now, it’s the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. Seven years from his graduation from boot camp, and five years since our son left for his second deployment. Even though his enlistment is over, as a citizen of the United States of America and his mom, I will never be the same. I can no longer listen to the Star Spangled Banner without tears filling my eyes. When I see a yellow ribbon tied to a tree or a blue star flag hanging proudly in a window my heart aches for the family as I say a prayer for them. I had always displayed the American flag on holidays, but now as I hang it, I think of all the sacrifices made for the freedoms the flag represents. If I see anyone in uniform or meet a Veteran, I make an effort to thank them. Overall, my sense of gratitude for the numerous blessings of living in America has deepened.
As a mom, September 11, 2001, and Brian’s subsequent service gave me a stronger love for my children as the reality of war with its casualties became personal. I no longer take any part of their lives for granted. I went from a deep love and appreciation for them to cherishing everything about them from their little quirks to their gifts and talents and every moment I’m able to see or even talk with them. When in a large group, I don’t have to interact with them, just being near and seeing them happy is enough. My desire to communicate my love for them, verbally and physically with hugs or a loving pat has grown. My life has truly become my family.
During my son’s enlistments there were two comments he made to me that I believe express the feelings of every son or daughter that chose to enlist after the terrorist attacks. The first, “I’m going over there, so they don’t come over here again, “ said right before he left for Afghanistan demonstrated his protectiveness of those he loved and his sense of patriotism.
The second comment was part of an email he sent while in Iraq. His unit had recently suffered several casualties and I’m sure he knew I was on edge. His message was “…don’t worry so much, Mom, just be happy for me…I’m doing what I want to do.” These words are an example of the thoughtfulness of our troops, as well as the pride they have in performing the mission they’ve been called to do.
Our troops and the families supporting them are proof that the attacks of September 11, 2001, didn’t accomplish the destruction and downward spiral of our nation as was planned by our enemies. Instead, the young men and women that chose on that day to put their own lives on hold and serve with determination, commitment, loyalty, and honor for one another and our great nation reinforced the foundation. Their decisions and the changes in myself represent the strength of America and that although we may have been thrown a vicious punch on September 11, 2001, we are definitely not down and out, and we are back in the ring fighting.