Even after saying goodbye to my military son ten times, as his mom, I always have a sick feeling when I think of my child, “over there.”
Chris is an Osbourn High School graduate who joined the U. S. Air Force after witnessing the plane hitting the Pentagon as he was driving to work. As an Osbourn Iron Eagle award winner, he did almost every sport imaginable from a starting quarterback for the Varsity Football Team to a Spring season male cheerleader — along with three other giants from the football team. He was fast as lightning and was always the teacher’s pet.
His experiences in the Manassas City Public Schools were great from the George C. Round Elementary days of Mrs. Boyd as Principal to hanging out with Officer Meg Carroll at Metz Middle School. He attended Osbourn as it transformed from the crusty old building to the brand-spanking-new one. He hung out in auto tech and shop and learned a trade that benefits him today in the military.
As an athlete, he was a prime target for college recruiters, but decided his country needed him more. And he was right. During basic training graduation, the war had not started, however, the keynote speaker told us that this would change — soon. Within days of tech school completion, my only son, my oldest child, was given a crash course on combat, jumping and survival and was sent to the Middle East. We prayed hard and were addicted to the news. That was the first of ten deployments.
Upon return from his first deployment, he settled at Fort Bragg / Pope Air Force Base in NC and immediately married his Osbourn High School sweetheart, Laura, another cheerleader. Now does the male cheerleader sport make sense?
Soon they had a home, a boat, a motorcycle, two dogs and two beautiful boys — my precious grandsons. Chris has a career field that he can’t talk too much about. Like many humble heroes, we hear light chatter here and there and are stunned at the courageous acts of patriotism that seep through his whispers.
He will retire before I do! During his career in the U.S. Air Force, he has racked up college credits galore. In five years he plans on retiring and might start his own business. We are a family of entrepreneurs, so he will have strong encouragement to fulfill his next dream.
He is a jack-of-all trades — some skills learned in that shop years ago at Osbourn. As a member of the Career Technical Education (CTE) Advisory Board at Osbourn, I know how important it is to provide career-ready curriculums to students and Chris’s story is a good example.
Chris is now in a far-away-land doing his job — living in “a place that is a mess in epic proportions.”
Remember, this is his 10th deployment. He has reported that, “It is the worst living conditions he has ever had.”
So what can we do as we sit in our warm homes, go to our well-equipped schools and jobs and drive in our nice cars to remember our brave men and women that are giving up so much for our comfort? These men and women love to connect with us — a card, a letter, a care package. My care package passed the “ok” test from his wife Laura.
Military families are left to fend for themselves. Houses fall a part, errands need to get done and kids need to be transported. Reach out and help. If you can’t give your time, consider donating.
Chris is not the only local hero that is doing this job. There are many City of Manassas and surrounding area hometown heroes that are also “over there”.
Contact these credible groups and organizations for ideas to help the military and their families:
- USO Wishbook: Favorite gifts: comfort food and personalized messages / cards, phone calls to loved ones and technology to connect and holiday packages. Email CarePackage@uso.org if you have questions about what or how to send information or goods to the deployed military members. A mail center like UPS or PostNet can ship packages — an APO address is a valid address. Watch out for scams.
- Red Cross: Provides workshops, information and support services to help military families with the practical and emotional challenges of deployment.
- Contact your local church to pray for these brave men and women. My family, located all over the country, has started an “Angel Team” to pray for Chris and his team.
If you have deployed military resources, or your own local deployed military member in need of a morale booster, please post a comment or email TheresaCoatesEllis@gmail.com. Be careful posting confidential information. Keep our men and women safe!