EOD graduation

EOD graduation
Oct. 20, 2011

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Senior Airman--First Deployment

Jim has worn camo since I can remember, his military mindset evident in his earliest years. We saw it coming all through his Civil Air Patrol years when he dove into search & rescue missions loaded down with all kinds of mysterious gear and equipment, and moved up the ranks to squadron commander. We loved the glamor of his early days in the Air Force, traveling to Texas to see him graduate from BMT with honors (and spotted armadillos in the wild), Florida for EOD graduation (what a feat! and we picked hermit crabs out of the ocean and bought that wonderful wooden pelican), and Kansas to visit him just because (and bought our first cowboy boots). We missed having Jim at home, but oh what fun it was to follow him to all of those new places! Yes, the expectation of deployment always loomed in the back of our minds, but I always hoped he wouldn't deploy because...well...he was too young!! And the president was working on bringing all our troops home, right? So what would be the point in sending EOD over there when everyone was coming back? Ah, the mindset of a naive and doting mother.

We learned of the impending deployment to Afghanistan in November, sitting with our son on a queen-sized bed in our hotel room in Wichita. I asked him if he was afraid to go, and in true Jim form, his response was, "It's what I signed up to do. It's part of the job." Same thing thousands of other brave young men and women have told their parents over the years, I'm sure. And so we proceeded with that in mind...it's part of the job he has to do. It's an everyday occurrence. No big deal, he'll be gone for six months and come home with lots of cool pictures of a place where, for once, we can't follow.

But it IS a big deal. And it was a big deal when we received this picture of Jim during his pre-deployment training. If you look closely, you can read "A POS" on his chest. "What's 'APOS' mean?' I asked my husband. He stared at me for a moment and then explained that it was our son's blood type. Right there on his chest. As in, "Hello, my name is Jim and I am A Positive." I think that was the moment it hit home for me that this was really happening. My son was going overseas to a place where danger lives right out in the open for all to see, just like his blood type.

He made this armband for me!
We couldn't be at Jim's side when he left, like all of the beautiful family members always are on episodes of Army Wives, gathered together near the plane and handing love notes to those who are deploying. Instead, I was sitting across from my mother at her dining room table, just finishing the wonderful meal she had prepared for me. My phone buzzed in the living room, but I figured whoever it was could wait a bit. Then my mom's phone buzzed. She handed me the phone and told me it sounded like Jim. It WAS Jim, and he said, "Hey, I'm about to head out." Just like that, he was going to leave the safety of American soil. Right then. I'm not sure what I said, something about loving him very much and praying for him continually I think. I managed to hang up before dissolving into tears, and my mom dissolved right along with me. I remembered the moment when Jim left us the first time, and I made it all the way home from dropping him off at the recruiter's office before dissolving. And that time, my mom was there too, holding me in her arms and dissolving right along with me. It seems to be how we roll!
"My son wears camo!" travel mug 
So he's been "over there" for nearly two weeks now. His cell phone is suspended and he hasn't been able to call, but now and then we hear from him via email, or get word from his fiance that he is doing ok. He wrote that he is settling in, that he has adjusted to time changes, and that he hasn't had to eat anything weird yet. He said he has everything he needs. And we have everything we need, too...the knowledge that he is safe and in the center of God's will for his life. That, of course, is the safest place to be, regardless of the location or circumstances.

My prayer is for Jim's safety from head to toe. We would really appreciate it if you would join us in praying for Jim as he comes to mind.

“You’re Already There”
by Casting Crowns

From where I'm standing
Lord, it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there