Posted with permission of Brigadier General John E. Michel, Commanding General NATO Air Command Afghanistan.
On the eve of another Mother’s Day, as I’ve unfortunately done a few times in my history, I needed a not-too-subtle prompt, this time from an internet ad, to get me moving on buying my mom something for the day. Almost settling to just call her tomorrow, which is something I knew she’d be just fine with, I elected to try and do some quick internet shopping to order her some flowers. Looking through the on-line options back in my hometown of Midlothian, Texas, I was surprised to find several more choices than the two little stores from back when I was a kid. I first started an order with a place that caught my eye as having multiple options and quick, easy delivery, but I soon discovered their first available date of delivery wasn’t until next Wednesday. So, I scrolled down to the next name that I’d recognized from various trips I’d made back home over the last decade or two…and gave them a call.
At first, a young man greeted me and asked me how he could help. I apologized soon after for the poor telephone connection and explained that I was overseas. He asked where I was & I told him I was in Kabul, Afghanistan. He then told me he was going to hand me to “Jane” the store owner who could better help me with my order. When Jane picked up the phone, she first asked about the address for delivery, then my mother’s name, her phone number…and then asked me my name. She then asked me where I was in Afghanistan as apparently the young man had relayed, at least in part, where I was calling from. “Kabul,” I said over the intermittent connection. She replied and asked if I knew where “Shkin” was. I told I had actually flown over that area once or twice, thinking I might be saying something interesting. She then responded that her son was “KIA there back in 2003.” The phone reception made it a little difficult to understand at first, but I quickly processed what she just said. She then went on to explain softly, but with undeniable pride, they had named the Army airfield there after her boy — “Dennis Army Airfield, FOB Orgun-E.”
I told her I was very sorry to hear about her loss, but she quickly transitioned to thanking me for my service, wanting nothing to do with any sorrowful talk. My service? I suddenly felt very humbled and off balance, sharing a moment with one whose friendly, courageous voice spoke of a pain and sacrifice I can only try to understand.
Jane then asked me what I’d like to have written on the note to my mom. I somewhat awkwardly told her, “Mom, thanks for all you do. Happy Mother’s Day.” I’m quite certain those words have never been so difficult, suddenly finding myself more conscious of whose ear was on the other end of the line than the effort to message my own mother.
I then asked her what kind of payment they accepted. I could almost hear her smile as she paused and said, “I think there are plenty of folks in the store right now who won’t let you pay for this…these are on us. Thank you for what you do.”
Private Jerod Dennis, rest in peace, and know your legacy of service is still shining through in your mom…on this Mother’s Day.
Army Private Jerod Dennis, KIA, 25 Apr 2003, Shkin, Afghanistan. Silver Star. Hero. Son. He was 19.
God Bless you & yours!
Colonel Joel Carey