If not my son, then whose

October 24th, 2008 by InfantryMom

Another common question I get is why my son, in particular, should be the one putting himself in harm’s way and serving in our military. There seems to be a belief, a fairly prevalent one, that if one person doesn’t want to do some dangerous or unpleasant task, there will always be someone else willing to do it and that unwilling person can go on their way without a second thought.

It’s almost a variant of the “not in my backyard” issue where people don’t want anything necessary but ugly or unpleasant located near them.

I’m the first to say that I have avoided my share of issues or tasks. We all do, it’s human nature to at least a certain extent.

But is this belief true? Is there always another person who will willingly take on that task or job in the place of the person who refuses? Honestly, I don’t believe it is. After all, if it were true, would there have had to be a draft in the Vietnam era? Would there be the understaffing problems we currently have in the military today that cause those that have stepped up to be kept on the front lines longer than they should be? Would there have been a need for stop-lossing?

But why, then, do people seem to be either amazed or appalled at the thought that someone they know has voluntarily taken on a task they fear or find distasteful? After all, isn’t it what they wanted? For someone else to take the task?

For all the people who ask me “why your son,” I have a single question to ask in return – If not my son, then whose?

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Some early morning news

October 11th, 2008 by InfantryMom

InfantrySon called today and InfantryBrother managed to answer the phone before we could hear it upstairs. So the first we knew was InfantryBrother knocking on the bedroom door and telling us InfantrySon was on the phone and had a computer problem.

That’s right — the reason for the call was to seek tech support! LOL Hey, I’ll take phone calls from him, no matter the reason.

After InfantryStepDad walked him through most of his computer issue, I got a chance to talk to him. They’ve been through a lot of intensive training and he’s now assigned to the M203 Grenade Launcher. This is the grenade launcher mounted to the M16 rifle. You can see it in this photo below the barrel of the M16.

M16 with the M203 grenade launcher

He seems pleased with this assignment and says he’s doing well. He actually has another challenge coin now but I don’t have a picture of it. I think I’ll have to buy him a camera to get one :)

He also said their orders had changed and instead of deploying to Kuwait mid-December, they are going directly to Iraq and probably at the end of October. He gave me more details but I think they’re too specific for this venue.

It will probably take me a day or two to adjust my own mental timeline to this new update – not that it’s set in stone, mind you, things can change quickly.

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Company Coin

October 4th, 2008 by InfantryMom

When InfantrySon graduated from OSUT, he won the BRM award for his Company. This means his shooting score, along with some other factors, beat out every other person in his Company. He was awarded a certificate and a Company Medallion.

I’ll talk about what little I know about the actual roots of these coins/medallions in a later post but remember that I said I was really fascinated by Army heraldry? This Company Medallion is a little mini-history of the Company and I thought you might be interested in seeing it and the explanations of the symbology.

Note that these are thumbnails. If you click on the thumbnail it will open the really BIG photo for you to see more clearly. There’s a huge amount of detail that doesn’t lend to itty bitty pictures. I think side 1 is the “front” as it’s the Regiment’s crest.

This is a BIG “coin” and very heavy.

Side 1

Company Coin Side 1

This side of the medallion has the Regimental crest of the 2d Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment.

The sky blue background of the shield stands for Infantry.

The gold band across it is taken from the arms of Alsace, where the Regiment first saw combat service in 1918.

The ragged tree trunk in the lower left of the shield) represents the Meuse-Argonne campaign in WWI.

The ladder in the upper right of the shield is taken from the crest of the 6th Infantry Regiment whose personnel originally established the 54th Infantry Regiment. It represents the ladders used to scale the walls of Chapultepec in the Mexican War in 1847.

The six-pointed star above the shield is the insignia of the 6th Division.

The chain-mail foot commemorates the march from the Vosges to the Argonne and back to Southern France in WWI.

The banner below the crest displays the Regiment’s motto: I will cast my foot over it.

Around the outside of the coin are the highlights of the Regiment’s service:
- 2-54th Infantry
- Meuse-Argonne
- Alsace 1918
- Rhineland
- Ardiennes-Alsace
- Central Europe

I’m not actually sure what the star and rank markings above the crest are, nor the helm and palm. I’m trying to track that down. If you know, I’d love to hear it! Just leave a comment.

The star may be because the 2nd Battalion is the only remaining Battalion of the 54th Regiment and is the custodian of the Regimental Color. This may just be a wild guess, though :)

Side 2

Company Coin Side 2

This side seems to have a reduced coat of arms. There is still the blue of the infantry as the background. Across the shield is the gold banner of Alsace. The words “Mailed Foot” harkens back to the Mailed Foot crest commemorating the march from the Vosges to the Argonne and back to Southern France in WWI.

The upper right has the ladder from the crest of the 6th Infantry Regiment and the lower left has the tree trunk of the Meuse-Argonne campaign in WWI.

Around the circumference of the coin are the words:
- 2-54th Infantry
- Discipline
- Physical Fitness
- Marksmanship
- First Aid
- Battle Drills

These are obviously training related and I’d guess they came about in 1987 when the 2-54 was transferred to the Army Training and Doctrine command and Ft. Benning, GA.

I’m always interested in additional information, so feel free to pass any on. I love this pieces of history on a piece of metal. I’ll post more later about what I’ve found out about challenge coins, how it was presented and the challenge game.

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The Backwards Flag

September 14th, 2008 by InfantryMom

The first time I saw InfantrySon in his ACU’s, I noticed he was wearing a flag patch on his right sleeve but the flag was backwards.

The meaning behind this is that the flag is intended to appear as if the wearer is carrying it as they move forward.

If the flag is to be worn on the

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Scrapbooking

September 14th, 2008 by InfantryMom

I found a nice Army scrapbook and I think I’m going to see if I can actually get a scrapbook started for InfantrySon. I have some great pictures from Turning Blue and Graduation and hopefully he’ll send more as he gets a chance.

Something to turn my attention to as soon as I’m off this book deadline.

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Communication

September 13th, 2008 by InfantryMom

By this I mean not only the fact that InfantrySon called me last night and we got a chance to talk but that I’ve always tried to teach my children that they can talk to me about anything. Nothing is off limits and I won’t think less of them or ridicule them for anything. I’ll be as honest to them as I expect them to be to me.

Admittedly, this has been hard at times, both when InfantrySon has asked me questions I’d rather not answer and when he’s told me things that were embarassing to him or maybe didn’t show the best judgement. InfantryBrother is only seven so his talks have revolved more around altercations on the playground so far.

I value that honesty beyond belief now. I got an email from InfantrySon that contained this:

I love you mom. I could never stress enough how much your support means to me… And sometimes I know I get quiet, and I confess, I think about the possibility frequently of what might happen if I never make it home. But no matter what may happen in these coming months, no matter where my mission will take me, and no matter where my enemy will engage me… I will always strive to do the right thing, to help out everyone along my path, and I will endeavor to make it back home. Not just for InfantryFiance, not just for InfantryDad, and not just for you… But because this life of our’s is too damned short as it is… And I could never stand the thought that I couldn’t spend more of it with any of you.

I cried, multiple times, but it was good crying because this note really touched me – he was so honest and forthright and SO mature.

Late last night he called me and we got a few minutes to talk and I was honored that he could talk to me about this and the fact he was determined to do his duty and his job, no matter his fears or the possibility of dying while serving his country. I told him it made me cry but it was a good thing.

So today I am grateful that InfantrySon and I can talk, honestly, about our feelings and fears. I can tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him. And I can support him, at least in this small way, with this blog and my unending faith that he WILL do his best to come home.

Hooooah!

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Do they know how much you love them?

September 11th, 2008 by InfantryMom

One thing I’ve already learned in this as-yet-new journey to being an Army Mom is that the risks of never seeing InfantrySon again are not horrible but they are in the forefront of my mind. It’s not that regular, civilian life isn’t without its own risks but somehow they are accepted and aren’t as close to the surface. It’s very easy to take for granted that your loved one will be there and you can pick things back up at any point. We all know that’s not the case, though.

How many people think, when talking on the phone to their child in college, that it could be the last time they ever talk to that person? Probably not many and, I’m sure, too many thoughts along that line could be a real problem. But those loved ones have a chance of dying too. Accidents, crimes, disease, etc. take a toll and even the most calm and quiet life has risk to it.

But I think it’s more obvious, maybe more stressed, when you have a loved one in the Armed Services, that you may never see them again. You may never speak to them again. You really never push it far from your mind. Every reunion, by whatever means, is a joy and celebration. Every parting is sweet, sweet sorrow overlaid with pride and fear.

What does that do? At least in my case it makes me cherish the little moments, like InfantrySon calling me to get a phone number last night. Getting an email can make me smile for hours.

And it makes me sure that, no matter my own stresses or fears, I ALWAYS tell InfantrySon how much I love him. Maybe he’ll get tired of hearing it, but I don’t think I could stand it if something happens and my last words were angry or annoyed. So I always tell him I love him and I’m proud of him.

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A Challenge to Parents

September 9th, 2008 by InfantryMom

I’ve been talking to a variety of other parents who now find themselves the parents of Soldiers. In some cases, this was not a surprise and they have had years to sort of get used to the idea that their child would enter military service. For others it’s come as a huge surprise and, honestly, at times a very unwelcome surprise. Their child may decide to enlist and tell the parents nothing about it until the day they leave. I’ve met a few who only knew when they got mail from boot camp.

For me it’s never been a real surprise. InfantrySon has been interested in military and military service since he was a small child. I was actually surprised when he didn’t join up as soon as he’d gotten his GED but I had always told him I’d support him and tried very hard to give him advice when asked but not to try to direct his life. If anyone meets me, they’ll quickly discover I’m a grade-A control freak – so this was hard for me. He was living on his own, near his father, so maybe that made it a bit easier when I got the call.

Early in 2008, InfantrySon called me to tell me he’d enlisted. He sounded tentative, nervous and said “Now don’t freak out, Mom…” But I didn’t freak out, really. I’d been expecting this news to come someday. I finished the phone call after asking him to keep me informed of when he’d report and to where and that I’d do my damndest to make sure we were at his graduation. By the end of the phone call, he was excited and somehow relieved. It took me a good day or two to wrap my head around the fact that he’d decided to set his feet on a real path, a good path but a difficult one.

I’ve made it a practice since I first became a mother to separate the fact that I love my children, no matter what, from whether I’m angry, hurt, disappointed or any other emotion. We are all capable of hating something a person does while still loving the person. Of not approving of a choice but still loving the one who made that choice.

The next time I talked to InfantrySon, a couple of days before he shipped off to OSUT, I tried to convey to him what I’d figured out I neded to say, after a week or two of really thinking about it. I told him I loved him and I was proud of him. I told him that I supported him and his choice and was behind him 100%. I told him I KNEW he’d make it through and become a Soldier and I couldn’t wait to see him in his uniform. Then I told him that I needed him to be patient with me because I’d spent his entire lifetime trying to help, teach and protect him and I didn’t think I would be able to NOT worry about him. I asked him to keep in contact as much as he could and endure my endless need for updates, news and reassurance. I loved him and trusted him, but I was still Mom.

There was a bit of a silence on the other end of the phone and I heard “I love you too, Mom. I’ll do my best.”

There were definitely times that I was scared. Times I felt out of touch. But every time I wrote or talked to him, I told him I loved him, I was proud of him and I supported his choice 100%.

I’ve not asked him if this had an impact on his OSUT success. I’d like to think it did.

But I’m saddened by stories I’ve heard since then. Young Soldiers whose families are so upset at their enlistment that they don’t write or even shun them completely. Soldiers who enlisted because they felt a need to and left their families, especially their mothers, abruptly and with hurt on both sides.

So I have a challenge for all parents of Soldiers – write a letter or speak to your Soldier and tell them how much you love them. Tell them that you might have a hard time for a bit while you adapt to their decision but you WILL adapt. Ask them to be patient with your fears and need of reassurance. Tell them how incredibly proud you are of them and that you will support their Army career.

I feel very strongly that, as a mother, this is no time to hold on to resentment and pain. It’s a chance that comes very seldomly – a chance to build a whole new relationship with your adult child that can carry you forward in your life and theirs. And it’s a chance to help them with one of the few things you can when they leave home – support, understanding and a parent’s bottomless love.

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InfantrySon Called

September 7th, 2008 by InfantryMom

I got a call from InfantrySon at about 5:15 this morning – good thing I’d been getting up about then on weekdays to get to work. I think he said it was about 2 in the afternoon his time.

He’s arrived and is doing well. He’s waiting for barracks and thinks he’ll be assigned to Charlie Company.

He’s get a cell phone that is free for him to receive calls on and has promised to email me his cell # and some rough idea of reasonable times to call him.

He also had some more nerve-wracking news. Originally we thought he’d be deployed to the Sandbox in late January or early February of next year but he’s now heard it may be the beginning of December this year.

It was great to hear his voice, though.

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InfantrySon has been assigned

September 6th, 2008 by InfantryMom

After reaching Germany, InfantrySon has been assigned to:

2nd Battalion
28th Infantry Regiment
172nd Infantry Brigade

I don’t know what company he’s in yet.

These are the “Black Lions” and this is their crest:

Their motto is: VINCIT AMOR PATRIAE (Love of Country Conquers).

I think the Army Heraldry is fascinating and I’ll talk about it more later :)

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