My son Daniel did a combat tour of Fallujah in 2007, but his other deployment with the Marine Corps was a MEU to the Gulf of Aden and Persian Gulf (which both he and I think is a horrible way to throw away money if we're never going to use the Marine Corps for anything on these MEUs except for humanitarian missions - but that's another topic). As the pre-deployment workup for this MEU, the Battalion underwent extensive training in evidence collection protocol and procedures. At the time I [read more]
The Fifth Deployment
April 27, 2009. My son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, deployed again to the war zone. This makes the fifth time in his 9-year career. He is an Army aviator. As usual, he goes willingly. It’s his job. And, as usual, as his father, I and the rest of the family say, “Amen”. But this time, it is not any easier than before. It is actually harder. One would think we would get used to it. No one gets used to sending their son to war.
We’ve been there, in the war zone. Both my wife and myself. We have spent over three years there. We are parents that actually got see our son in the war zone. I actually got to fly with him on missions. I’m a combat photographer. My wife and I both have worked for the military on numerous flight lines doing a variety of ground operations. I’ve seen a lot and know what happens in war. I’ve never met anyone that actually gets used to war.
This time, I know I have at least one more tour in me. Somewhere, somehow, I will find a way to visit my son during his tour as well as many, many other sons and daughters of America currently serving in harms way. It is what I do. I just cannot stay away. Parents are depending on me to tell them that their sons and daughters are fine and strong and doing their jobs, willingly. It is what warriors do. It is the least I can do to stand in the gap for all the parents that cannot be there. I never tire of wanting to be there and relay back home, “well done, soldier, marine, sailor, airman”. Mother, father, relax! They are fine. They are holding and carrying the torch we’ve passed to them well, very well. I never will stop getting used to this.
I know loss. I buried one son, a Marine, in 2001. His name was Jesse. From that suffering has grown a deep commitment to all the troops deployed and an even deeper commitment to the families at home awaiting their safe return. My wife and I have been blessed to have worked with America’s finest since 2004 in the Iraq theatre of operations. We’ve been there loading the wounded; we’ve been present during patriot details as fallen angels make their final journey home; we’ve loaded personal effects with great care and sent them home to the families; we’ve ushered in thousands of incoming troops and ushered home thousands more back stateside; we’ve seen them come on one, two, three and more tours; we’ve been there during attacks and been there on the front lines during extremely tense moments; and much, much more, too numerous to list.
The fifth time sending my son is harder than all the previous ones. Not that the times are better or worse. Rather, it’s the war zone and anything can happen as all who’ve been there know all too well. It is all part of the job. But this time, my son has triplet boys at home who will be awaiting his return. They are 10-months old as he leaves this time, and when their father returns, they will be more than twice their current age, and they will not know their father other than email photos. This hurts me for my son. And my son will have another child born to him and his wife less than two months after he has deployed. This time, this deployment is more than just a tour of duty. It is a real life family affair with suffering already taking place just by the nature of the duration and the everyday life experiences of a young family growing as daddy goes off to war, again.
It is all part of the job. But it does not make it any easier. But we are all patriots who see the bigger picture. The entire Spiri family marches in unison when duty calls, both in the war zone and on the homefront. We are in one accord. It is what we all must do.
This is not now nor never has been a time to debate the right or wrong of the mission those in authority over us have tasked us all with. My son taught me long ago, early in his military career that I, as his father am always on a need to know basis. And most of the time, I just don’t need to know. However, I also taught my son early on from his youth that I have been in war zones since the time he was very, very young and that I am the one that told him daddy would come to the war zone should he ever get the call. He now knows this by our joint experiences that this has come to pass and will come to pass once again. Like I said earlier, this deployment is a family affair for the Spiris.
Our other children along with their children, (our grandchildren) support their uncle by writing letters, sending care packages from their school classrooms and adopting whole units who are my sons’ comrades in arms serving in harms way. And as such, it stretches not just from a family affair, but all the way to a nation’s affair. This is the reality of how a nation supports its warriors at war. It starts at home and grows to the neighborhood and to the schools and eventually all across the nation support gains for those young warriors defending freedom a half a world away in very dangerous situations. This is not just a theory, rather, it has been and will continue to be our experience. It is the part we’ve all recited since our youth, “One nation, under God…” It is real to the Spiri family.
My son’s young wife, Pamela, will be delivering our next grandchild in mid June. She already is missing the love of her life, my son. And he’s only been gone two days as of this writing. But she is a strong young woman who knows the phrase, “When duty calls.” She is the daughter of an Army aviator and now the wife of one. She knew what she was up against before she married. But it does not make it any easier. She will be fine. There is a strong family network of support on both sides. My son can rest assured that the support network is up and running and in full active mode, already. It is what our families do.
The reason I’m writing this to all who will take the time to read it is this: Our nation is at war. It is never time to let up on supporting the troops. I can surely testify to this as one who is now in the current experience of sending my son to war, again. But I know from past experiences that relaying the current experience as a fellow citizen to the rest of the citizens of our nation will in fact strengthen us all in a positive fashion. This in turn will strengthen our troops abroad. And even more importantly, it will result in comforting me as I know the rest of you will be on your knees praying throughout this deployment for ALL of America’s sons and daughters currently in harms way, of which, my son, CW2 Jimmy Spiri, is one. He just happens to be my son.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA