May 2011

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Soil OnHome She never expected to be a military mom, but when Sue Wagner’s son joined the Army, she found a mission all her own By Meagan Parrish Photographed by Amber Arnold Hair and makeup by Anna Lutzke of Be Inspired Salon O n the surface, the conversation could have been mistaken for casual chatter about the news of the day. Recent developments in far-away places like Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq were on everyone’s minds. But on a snowy spring afternoon in a hotel conference room near Appleton, these events were being described through the eyes of women with an entirely unique point of view. Seated in the back of the room, Joni Kerwin took a turn to speak. After pausing to fight back a sob, she described what it was like when her son was deployed. “When he called [the day he left], it was so hard hanging up from him,” she said, her voice a mix of exhaustion and worry. “It was so hard letting him go.” As a few reached out to console Kerwin, others silently nodded with understanding. The women were gathered for a meeting of the local chapter of Blue Star Mothers—a support group for parents of children en- listed in the military and serving overseas. 40 BRAVA Magazine May 2011 When it was her turn, member Nanette Aprill had a different kind of story to tell. “The whole time my son was deployed [in Iraq] he would call me. And I wanted to be strong because that first year was so hard,” she said, explaining through tears the emotion of staying in touch with her son while he also balanced a relationship with his wife and young child. “And then when [my son] came back … I remember on that cold, dark morning in January waiting for the plane with my daughter-in-law. [When I saw him] I just wanted to … push her out of the way [to get to him],” she admitted. Just like that, the tears in the room were dried by laughter. Over the next hour, the women opened up about their experiences. They laughed and cried to lighten the burdens they car- ried. They shared their darkest fears and the ways they’d learned to cope with new challenges. And as each woman told her story, they all circled back to the honest

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