Sunday, November 11, 2012
John J. Ballard ~ Proud Veteran of the U.S. Navy
It's that day again. The day when I stop all my busy stuff and concentrate on my son. You know, the one who signed up for the Navy as a 16 year old junior in high school. The one who thought it would be a good way to get in some college credits and still be with his long time and closest friends. Some of that worked out. And the friends are still here, so maybe it all worked out.
You made that decision with very little real knowledge of what you would be doing. I signed the papers because I thought you would be traveling around our country or even Europe and seeing things you'd never likely see, otherwise. Neither of us had any hint that you would be called into service in Iran. Neither of us had any notion that you could actually be engaged in a war with a terrorist nation. That big aircraft carrier seemed like a city on the water to me and a bit like a cruising vacation. That was before...
When the call to move the USS Independence to the Gulf for duty, I was petrified. I read your letters, I listened to your tapes and I cried a great deal of the time. I was as much on alert as you were. When you told me your ship was on alert 24/7 I could hear in your voice how stressful this was for all of you. You couldn't hear the stress in my voice because I wrote back. I told you how proud of you I was. I told you how much I worried, but I didn't tell you how much I cried. It wouldn't help you and I couldn't share that.
You told me how prepared you all were to perform the duties you had trained so diligently for the months prior. You told me you were ready for whatever, whenever. I believed you, but I prayed anyway.
I was so relieved when your ship was replaced by another and you were returning to California. I was so grateful to God and Iran for not putting my son's life in jeopardy and for not testing those skills you had worked so hard to develop. I wanted those skills to go unused. I'm a mom and that's how it is.
Today, I look back and remember, as I always do on Veteran's Day, and I am no less proud of you at this moment in time than I was in your whole Navy career period. Seeing you in that Johnny Cash uniform just made my heart stop. So tall, so handsome, so honorable and so distinguished. All that before your 21st birthday. The day you walked into my salon to surprise me, still brings a tear to my eyes. That black uniform! Those eyes filling with tears when I turned to see you. Mine and yours. The feel of my son in my arms in that uniform! Indescribable. Yet, today, that feeling remains. The pride, the love and the hug of my son remain forefront in my mind. Still makes me happy and still makes me stand a little taller.
A father, a husband, a grandson,an uncle and friend to people I also love, but always my son. My joy, one of my greatest accomplishments as a human.
I love you, so much and again this year, with eyes overflowing, I thank you for your sacrifice for my freedoms, for your dedication to your service and mostly for always loving your mother back.
With unconditional love and appreciation,
From your Mom