ed to Afghanistan care packages. “That meant a lot to him that people that he barely knew were praying for him,” Frank said.
Tax collector for the Town of Waxhaw, Ann said the community couldn’t have been more supportive. Three units in Afghanistan, including Stephen's, received snacks, candy, razors, socks and more from the “Support the Union County Troops for Christmas” effort. Plus, she said she got encouragement from folks on the street.
“I was bad to expound to everybody. I would go to the grocery store and be buying Yoo-hoos and whatnot for a care package, and the cashier would ask how I was doing. I’d say, ‘I'm doing really good. This is for my son in Afghanistan. Look at what all he’s getting’!”
Less gregarious than Stephen and Ann, Frank still found value in talking with others facing similar experiences, including families of other soldiers in Stephen’s unit. He and Ann attended briefings and post-deployment events offered by the National Guard.
While they shared their anxieties with each other, they were advised by the military to keep conversations with their son upbeat and light to not create unnecessary worries or keep him from focusing on work. Ann took that advice a step further. “I encourage parents to make the lines of communication between them and their children strong, even here, because it is so
important when they are over there,” she said. “Encourage them to make that phone call home now, and then make sure the conversations are good and positive because if you are going to be down and upset, they are not going to want to call back.” While they mailed care packages about every two weeks and eagerly awaited his return, Frank said he also learned to let go a little bit. “I was always kind of hovering over him, trying to help him make decisions, and this kind of broke me of that because obviously I had no influence at all during the deployment. It helped me some to let him get his own wings.” Ann said this year’s Memorial Day event in Waxhaw brought Stephen’s experience full circle. At the 2012 service, as he readied to deploy, he was asked to accompany Korean War veteran Billy Watts, a two-time Purple Heart recipient, in placing a memorial wreath in front of the town’s Military Wall of Honor. This year, the town asked Stephen back and presented him with the flag that had flown over the memorial. Luanne Williams, a former newspaper editor, is a freelance writer.
Union Lifestyle l December 2013 / January 2014 23
Published on Nov 29, 2013