The Meaning of Service

Military parents explain the importance of serving others, and how they take pride in what their children have accomplished.

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Harold Stewart: Well, service to me is, in so many words, whether it’s going to be on the local level or community, it’s giving back: giving back to your community, giving back to the United States as a whole, just giving your time.

Patricia Smith: I mean, you’re representing your country, the freedoms that we enjoy on a daily basis. It’s thanks to these men and women.

Mario Vega: These guys are the ones that are keeping us safe, you know. The whole continental United States, it’s relying on them, so I’m very proud of him.

Hugo De Leon: Just being in the United States — and I tell this to my kids all the time — I’m richer than three-quarters of the world, just with my freedom, and I’ve always taught my kids that the United States, it’s phenomenal, it’s the best, and to serve for this country is an honor. I have the utmost respect for anybody that served, any veterans, anybody that’s currently serving, and if anybody approached me with any negativity about my kids serving in the Military, I’ll stand up for my kids, you know. No problem. You know, there’s just — there’s no better place to live, and they’re defending it. I’m proud of that, very proud.

Barbara Heinz: There were some people that seemed to be kind of — I don’t know if “concerned” is the word, but they wanted to know why the boys felt they needed to go into a wartime Military, and I told them that it was the support that they have for their country and for the love of their country that they wanted to go, you know, to feel like they were doing something. It’s a great way to build discipline and to show support for your country. They are literally defending and protecting us.

Dawn Woodings: It gives you a sense of pride that I am doing something that — his term was “I know that my family and my friends are sleeping safe tonight.”

Mario Vega: Walking with him when I pick him up from the airport, it’s — it makes you feel good because, you know, you see the respect people give him, and even at the restaurant, you know, when we got him yesterday, and so that makes you feel proud.

Betty Simmons: They have so many people just, you know, thanking them for something that, you know, they think of as an everyday, you know — they’re just serving and doing what their country needs them to do at the moment.

Jayne White: I go out of my way to hug people, to thank people, to promote anything I can for the Services.

Nancy Kennon: I feel like serving your country means that you’re going to be out there protecting the citizens of the United States, and, as Julia put it, that there’s a real reason why she’s in there. It’s because she’s protecting the country. So, to me, to have people like Julia out there, I feel safe knowing that they’re there and they know what they know.

Patti Kolk: It just makes me really proud, too, that I’m a military parent and I’m an Air Force Reserve parent.

Staying in Touch During Basic Training

Given her family's background, Darlene wasn't completely surprised by Derrick's plans for the future, and she knew what to expect. She was also impressed by how Derrick's recruiter helped him prepare for Recruit Training, stayed in touch with her and did his best to answer her questions.

While methods of keeping in touch vary from Service to Service, Darlene heard from her son soon after his arrival at Recruit Training. She explained, "When they first arrive for boot camp, they are allowed one phone call, and the phone call is very brief. They can only say, 'Hi, I'm here, and you'll get a letter from me soon.' " After what seemed like a very long month, Darlene was thrilled to finally receive her first full letter from Derrick.

Nothing could have changed the fact, however, that Darlene still missed Derrick terribly and worried about him while he was at Recruit Training. She said, "There was some anxiety during the time he was at boot camp. There's a long period of time before you have any contact with them." She admitted that, as soon as she had Derrick's address, "I would write three letters a day so he could have something to read when he had some downtime."

The limited contact was all worth it when Darlene saw Derrick at his graduation. Darlene smiled just thinking about what her son accomplished. She said, "I saw my boy become a man. I could see the confidence."

A Network of Military Mothers

After graduation, Derrick went on to Marine Combat Training, and he is now working as a paralegal at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Derrick was deployed twice to Iraq, and Darlene admitted that time was difficult for her — especially whenever she watched the news — but Derrick helped Darlene feel better. She repeated what Derrick told her about his work: " 'This is my job. We're trained for this. We know what to do.' "

When Derrick was deployed, Darlene was able to turn not just to her family but also to her peers — other military moms. "In the beginning," she said, "I had established relationships with a Marine mom support group. It was awesome for me. These mothers were very supportive. It makes a difference when you can speak to someone who really truly understands because they've gone through it or they're going through it themselves."

Darlene looks forward to what's next for her son and is confident that her son's Marine Corps training will be useful no matter what he chooses to do. She said, "The Military really helped him in his direction as far as his career path and what he would like to do for the future."

"The Military really helped him in his direction as far as his career path and what he would like to do for the future."

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