Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again.
– Ronald Reagan
Jodi Baxter is the quintessential American mother of two. She worked and scraped and saved to give her kids a better life. Not that hers was all that bad but to want more for your children is an integral component of the American dream. Jodi is smart and savvy as well as a caring friend and citizen. When those trying days of raising children come to an end, most mothers expect to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labors. You know, Memorial Day BBQs with the kids and grandkids. Sunday dinners with the sons and daughters-in-law.
But Jodi’s post-child rearing years could turn out to be her most significant challenge in life. This is because Jodi is now a military mom.
The Baxter Story
Jodi and her husband Jim have two children named Jacy and Joy (yes, they have a thing for “J”s). The Baxters spent most of their lives in suburbia, doing all the typical things suburban families do – little league, soccer, lacrosse. As far as we know, neither side of the Baxter family had a long or distinguished military history. But the Baxters’ son Jacy would soon take his family in another direction:
“It was laughable to me when my son stated quite definitively at the age of 13 that he wanted to be an elite warrior after watching a Discovery Channel program about Navy SEALs. My baby who kept a sleeping bag stashed in our bedroom, so he could sleep on the floor after watching a horror movie? My baby, who suffered anxiety attacks at camp? My baby, who loved nothing more than clean, soft sheets and LONG hot showers? Imagine my shock when he walked into the enlistment office a few weeks after he graduated from college.”
Becoming a Navy Seal is no easy task. There is a 24-week boot camp of sorts called “Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School,” commonly known as BUD/S, followed by a parachute course and then a 26-week SEAL Qualification Training program. The pressure is intense and the failure rate enormous as the young men are winnowed down to a select few. Jacy is one of those who showed enough grit to become a SEAL and is currently overseas serving his country as one of the most elite servicemen America has to offer.
“I am so proud of him. Not for being strong, but for being so focused and unwavering in pursuing his dream. Many men, much tougher than he, didn’t make it through the months of grueling testing and training. He repeatedly demonstrated that he wanted this more than anything. How can a parent not support that kind of spirit?”
That pride and support does not mean it is an easy task for a mother to know that her only son is in harm’s way:
“Yes, I prefer he would have been called to be a businessman but that is not to be, so I accept and support his choice. He feels he was born to do what he does (called to do it) and that eases my soul. It is a choice that he is very comfortable with, so it makes it easier for us to accept. He loves his job, his country and his men. My son wrote this letter to his grandfather (my dad) and in so doing, settled my heart once and for all about his career choice.”
Deployment is going well. I have been busy over here. Of course, hardships come with the territory. I believe it will be an experience worth the hardships…as any good ones are in this life.
I can tell you that my health is good… mind, body, and soul. I am looking forward to getting better at my job every day; it is something I take great pride in. I love this job. I like being challenged and depended on and knowing that I can depend on these guys. I’m not too sure there are many jobs like that on earth. I know now for a fact that I was born for it.
Please send my love to Grandmama.
So, on this Memorial Day, we salute those who have loved and lost but also those who love those who are still serving – the moms like Jodi, their kids like Jacy and their spouses and children. They are the warriors of our day and time. They do it because they love this great land that is America and because they are extraordinary human beings to which we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.