Editor’s note: Jerian Donnell Tibbs, 38, is from Lima.
Jerian was recruited into the National Guard right out of high school at the age of 18 against my wishes for him. Choosing this path was his choice, especially when there’s a promising picture painted before you.
The day I dropped him off at the armory on Collett Street and watched the doors gently close behind him, I knew that he would go to war. Which is something you can never prepare your mind for as a mother.
After 9/11 the St. Marys unit, which he was part of, was sent to Indiana for training that December for deployment to Iraq in 2005 for an 18-month mission. Their uniforms went from Army green to the color of desert sand, as well as the Army vehicles.
The send off gathering and watching the young men board the buses was probably the hardest moment. It was like a kick in the gut and reality setting in at the same time to see your first born loading a bus for war — but you find the strength inside you to stand and stand therefore. I made sure he had a poster covered with the faces of those who loved him and the word of God in a compact, easy carry form.
With the prayers of family, friends and the body of Christ you get through and learn to stand on the firm foundation. I would wear two watches, one with my time and the other with Iraq’s time, knowing that his duty was patrolling at night.
I met mothers during this time who had had nervous breakdowns during the time their sons had been deployed. This time was so trying for them and also so sad but you do the best you can do — encourage, understand and be compassionate.
There were several meetings that I attended in St. Marys during my son’s departure, and the unit was good about keeping those at home updated and who to contact if needed.
Jerian’s troop mission was to uncover bombs, and my mission was to pray for him and his troop. I held onto the send off program with all the names of the guys who had boarded the buses that day and I would rise early before work to cover him and his troop with prayer.
While Jerian was home on leave his unit drove over a mine and received seven Purple Hearts that day — but no deaths. The bonding that develops between these men is beyond what I can put into words. The phone call I received after his return to Iraq and the alarming sound in his voice will never be forgotten.
The disappointment of not being there for his buddies and friends when he thought he should have been, especially after developing a close brotherly knit bondage, was upsetting to him.
I remember a few stories Jerian would tell. While out on patrol one night a missile from the enemy brushed across the windshield of the vehicle he was riding in while it was lit up like a Christmas tree. Lives were preserved that night. The second story was the tank he was a gunner in drove across a landmine and it exploded. He was tossed around the vehicle. Those in the vehicle thought he was dead. He was spared of all injuries and just seconds prior, he was standing up with part of his body exposed and right at the right moment and time he had an urge to sit down and did and his life was spared.
He also received a Medal of Honor for putting his troop before himself during a time that could have been devastating. He was awarded with a mini vacation to stay at a resort for his quick thinking and that was during the time of his birthday. I was happy about that.
Going back to civilian life could not have been easy, especially when everyone around you are potential enemies except the ones that are dressed like you. Being trained to look over your shoulder and around every corner cannot be easy coming back to civilian life to wander about with freedom and ease. But he did learn to adjust which took time and prayer.
When Jerian expressed his desire to re-up, I was saying it is time to come home. I knew I did not have a re-up in me.
P.S. The troops wore bandanas over their nose and mouths to protect themselves against the sand storms.