All stories have compelling layers beneath the surfacePublished 9:58am Thursday, February 27, 2014
Deep in her heart, Jackie Evans always knew her son, Colten, was going to end up answering the call of duty. After all, it was somewhat of a family legacy.
Colten’s story is on page 43 of today’s Horizons edition. But, as is often the case in life, every tale has countless layers and strands that make up its fabric. This one is about Jackie Evans and what it is like for a mother whose son is fighting for our freedoms in one of the most dangerous places in the world.
The Dowagiac woman opened up in an interview originally intended to be part of the Horizons story but didn’t make the deadline. Still, her words were too heartfelt and poignant not to share.
“Colten has always believed it was a family calling, not a tradition so much, but a true calling,” she said. “So we were not at all surprised when he started talking to recruiters, but as a mom, I can tell you I immediately felt a heaviness in my heart.”
Colten had basically planned to go into the Army since he was old enough to understand what the military is, Jackie said. His paternal grandfather, Bradley, was a WWII Army veteran, and his father, Guy, served in the Army during the mid 1980s. Colten was really close to his grandfather while he was growing up, but it may have been a turning point in American history that really pushed him over the top.
“Colten was only 8 years old when the September 11th attacks occurred, but he was old enough to understand what was going on,” Jackie said. “Additionally, he grew up with his dad being a firefighter. We are very familiar with the sound of a PASS alarm that wails loudly when a firefighter has not moved for a specific amount of time. When the towers fell, there was an unforgettable cacophony of PASS alarms screaming as the news cameras were recording the events, and we knew that this sound meant several heroes had been injured or killed. It stains your heart and your memory. So 9/11 hit home in many ways, one of which was that my husband and my son were very frustrated that neither of them were in any position to help in any way. So I think that galvanized his determination to serve.”
Growing up his father always told him, “The Army isn’t for everybody, and it is okay to join another service or serve in other ways,” Jackie recalled. She even urged him to pursue college or law enforcement.
In the end, military service was Colten’s choice.
“… We are proud of Colten. Scared out of my wits, but proud,” Jackie said. “My dear husband reminds me all the time that, just as I rely on his training to keep him safe while fighting fires and working emergency scenes, I have to trust that Colten will use his training to come home to us safely. I have faith in God and Colten.”
Still, it is difficult for Jackie — and thousands of other military moms, dads, husbands, wives, siblings and other family members who support the heroes who serve our great nation.
“I cannot fathom how I would have faced what he has faced every day since he started this journey with the Army. Sometimes I find it hard to breathe thinking about where he is, how far away he is, how dangerous it is, and every report of a soldier injured or killed causes anxiety until I hear from him that he is okay,” she said.
“I am truly humbled by what the families of soldiers in previous wars dealt with every day before we had Internet, cell phones and text messaging. My late mother-in-law sent her husband off to war, her oldest son during Vietnam, her youngest son spent a year in South Korea, and she had to rely on the postal service to know her beloved men were okay.”
The days of letters are past, but Jackie relies on email, text messages and the occasional Skype.
“So I know that I have it much easier than my predecessors. On the difficult days, I really miss having my mother-in-law here to comfort and give her sage advice,” Jackie said. “But Grandma Evans has overwatch now with Grandpa Evans, and Colten could not ask for two better-equipped guardian angels.”
Even though her son is a 20-year-old grown man, that doesn’t change a mother’s protectiveness or bias.
“That young man impresses me in ways I cannot find words to express. … He has had a difficult road, one that none of us were prepared for, not even his veteran dad, but he has been able to overcome disappointments and make lemonade from his lemons. He impresses those he serves with and under. …”
Perhaps most appreciated of all, Jackie said, “He is kind. He spares his momma the ugly details and tries to keep me in the dark about what he is up against over there. Yeah, Mike, I am a very proud Army Mom.”
As she — and all other loved ones of those serving in every branch of the armed services — should be. These are our great nation’s greatest heroes.
Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.