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Wife, Mother Offers a Lesson in Sacrifice

While the events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 briefly touched all lives in America, they will remain in my family's lives forever. After witnessing those acts, my youngest son, Justin, decided to enlist in the Army. He gave up a promising career in drafting to do that. Once through with his training, he found himself stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, with the prestigious 1st Cavalry Division. According to his leaders, he was a soldier's soldier ... a shining example of what one should be. So excited about his new way of life that he talked his older brother, Joshua, into joining as well. By November 2002, both of my sons were serving our great country and proud of it. I don't believe any mother could have been prouder than I was.

In May 2003, my husband, Joe, decided to rejoin the military. After a 22-year break from the armed services, he joined the Georgia National Guard to serve with his sons. Now I had all 3 men in my family in uniform. Once again, my pride swelled.

When Justin found out he was headed to Iraq, his father immediately started searching for a National Guard unit that would deploy with 1st Cavalry. Joe wanted to go and serve with Justin, partly for the honor and partly in hopes of protecting his son from danger. He got his wish and transferred to Washington State. Apparently, though, it wasn't meant to be. He was injured during training and could not deploy with his unit.

Justin and his unit arrived in Baghdad on March 30, 2004. I knew he was in a dangerous place but never expected to come home from church only 11 days later, on Easter Sunday morning, and find the Army waiting for me. Justin had been killed the previous night while on patrol by a roadside bomb. Receiving this news was the next to the hardest thing I had ever done. The hardest was picking up the phone and calling his Dad to tell him that his son was dead. Even while doing this was extremely difficult, my pride in my son only grew. He was a man who willingly chose to write a blank check, the one that could possibly be cashed in the amount of his life. So many of our young men and women have voluntarily written that same check over the past five years and had it cashed.

Our story doesn't stop here though. A little over a year after our son's death, my husband got his chance to serve in Iraq. He spent eight months in country, six of which were spent in the deadly Al Anbar province as a gunner on a humvee. This was the same job our son had died doing. Am I proud of him for his continued service even after what we had been through? You bet!

I have not said a lot about our other son, Joshua. Since he is still currently serving in our military, I have to respect his need for privacy. He needs this partly because of his job but also partly because he wants no acknowledgement for doing his job. I will say this much though in honor of him. Even having lost his little brother to the war has not stopped his dedication to our country. He could have taken the easy way out and stayed home but instead, chose to serve eight months in Afghanistan with his unit.

So, as you can see, everyone from our family is serving this country as well as our troops. My role during this entire time? Making sure our troops who are actively serving are not forgotten. As for our Fallen Heroes, I try to attend as many funerals in Georgia as possible ... to show these families that they and their loved one are not forgotten, [and] that their courage and dedication to our country and the rest of the world will long be remembered.

Thank you.

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Jan Johnson