By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON —
They’re the ones who send overflowing care packages, who wait by the phone or on Facebook and who keep a constant eye on the international news reports.
The mothers of those in the United States armed forces may not be difficult to spot, with yellow ribbons in their yards and on their cars, but what’s less evident to the casual observer is the toll of the unknown on their hearts.
For Leslie Petrie of Woodlawn, the constant worry about her son is something fairly new. Jacob Lamar, 19, a Marine deployed to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, left his base in Cherry Point, N.C., on March 16.
Though Petrie’s family has a history of military service — her father was in the Navy, her brother was in the Air Force and she and her husband’s grandfathers also served, Lamar was inspired to join the Marines by someone else, she said.
“He was friends with Kyle Price, and that’s one of the main reasons he joined,” Petrie said.
Marine Lance Cpl. J. Kyle Price of Woodlawn was killed in Jan. 2006 near Ramadi, Iraq. His mother and stepfather, Cheryl and John Hunsell, started a memorial ride in his honor, which donates funds to Woodlawn High School, the Woodlawn Boy Scouts and a number of military organizations.
Petrie said the hardest part of his deployment for her is the intermittent communication.
“Right now, the worst thing is not being able to talk to him whenever I want to,” she said. “If it wasn’t for e-mail, I’d be going absolutely nuts.”
She said the most stressful times are when she knows her son is about to head out for a mission.
“It’s the worst,” she said. “He called the night before Easter, because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get to a phone on Easter with so many people wanting to call. With him being so far away, I’m not able to give him the comforts of home and the things a mother thinks her child needs.”
Petrie said though she worries, she is proud Jacob chose to serve his country.
“I’m very proud of him,” she said “It was his decision, and I support him one hundred percent.”
Joyce Poorman of Mt. Vernon has seen her son, Air Force National Guard Maj. Troy Poorman, through two deployments, first to Iraq and then to Afghanistan.
Poorman said she wasn’t as supportive of her son’s decision at first.
“As a mother, you’re thinking, ‘this isn’t good,’” she said. “If you go back to the very beginning, I was very against it. Most mothers don’t want to see their child at risk. Now I’m proud; I guess I’ve gotten used to it.”
Troy Poorman started out in the Army, in the 82nd Airborne, but then transferred to the Air Force, and he is now based at Lambert Field in St. Louis, Mo., Joyce Poorman said. He has been in the armed forces for about 23 years, she said.
When he left on his first deployment to Iraq in 2004, Joyce Poorman wanted to do something to support her son and other deployed military overseas. She called David Keen, who was active with the Army National Guard at the time.
“I asked what Jefferson County was doing to help, and he said it wasn’t doing a whole lot,” she said. “Then he asked me if I wanted to get something started.”
Keen and Poorman started Jefferson County Operation Iraqi Freedom, which raises money to send PX cards to Jefferson County soldiers who are deployed.
Poorman said she has received torrents of feedback from both soldiers who received a card and their families — all of it positive.
“Some of them tell us how appreciative they are,” she said. “Some of them tell us what they used it for.”
She said she has a support system in the other military mothers she meets through the JCOIF.
“They are going through the same thing,” she said. “That and the fact that David and I and the committee are working to help our soldiers. It’s best to stay busy, and the committee is good help in doing that.”
Poorman said even though she has a support system in other military mothers and the JCOIF committee, she still is affected by the uncertainty that comes with being a family member of a deployed soldier.
“It’s always the unknown,” she said. “With computers, we were able to keep in contact with Try, but it wasn’t daily. Anything can happen, so it’s just that unknown. I’m not a worrier, but that’s your flesh and blood over there. It’s tough on families.”
Pat Garren of Woodlawn has seen her son, Army Maj. Tyson Garren, return from deployments to Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, Korea, and Afghanistan. Tyson is currently on his second deployment to Afghanistan, Pat Garren said.
“He’s over there playing in the sand, as he puts it,” she said.
Pat Garren said she keeps in contact with her son through Facebook primarily.
“We are able to keep in touch, though not every day,” she said. “We use Facebook and e-mail, but Facebook’s faster.”
She said the anxiety for her son’s safety is at its worst near the holidays, especially Christmas, but said faith is helpful for her.
“My church and religious faith that God’s gonna take care of it (are my support),” she said.
Tyson Garren will return home this October, but Pat Garren said she hopes to see all the armed forces return soon.
“We need them to come home,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.”