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Wheeler: Prayer sustains a mother on the home front

Sandra Brooks, of Louisburg, is a proud but worried mother of a U.S. serviceman Specialist Jordan Hamilton, 26. He left in such a hurry that his extra belongings are still piled in the corner of her dining room.
Sandra Brooks, of Louisburg, is a proud but worried mother of a U.S. serviceman Specialist Jordan Hamilton, 26. He left in such a hurry that his extra belongings are still piled in the corner of her dining room. clowenst@newsobserver.com

On Sunday, Sandra Brooks will greet Mother’s Day the same way she has begun every morning since the gray November day that her son, Jordan Hamilton, left to train for his deployment to Afghanistan: praying for strength.

“Learning to let go and placing my son in God’s hands is a daily exercise of faith,” says Brooks, a Louisburg mother of three. That release is a hard one for any parent; for a military mother, it seems brutal.

Especially so since mid-April, when Brooks learned that Hamilton, 26, a specialist with the 340th Psychological Operations Company based in Garner, had been seriously wounded during an attack on his installation. He has since recovered and returned to duty.

“It’s been a journey,” Brooks says of her time since she heard the news. “The first week I was stunned; the second week, somber. The last few days, I finally realized I should be thankful I have my son.”

Her lighthearted, mischievous son who, when small, loved to rock his chair back and fall completely over for a good laugh. Her gregarious son she enrolled in Neuse Christian School so he could get an education that grounded him. Her clown who has now grown a mustache his mother absolutely despises.

Hamilton went a little too crazy, his mother says, after being unleashed from the strictures of his private high school and spent a dismal year at Cape Fear Community College near Wilmington. He came home and took a series of jobs before landing a position at Franklin Correctional Center, where he still works when he’s not deployed.

“He was in irrigation, and he found himself in a hole in the ground when it dawned on him there had to be more to life than that,” Brooks says. “He made a decision to better himself.”

That seems to be the reason many of our young men and women end up in the military, fighting our wars, risking their lives, protecting our freedoms. Signing up leads to marketable skills and often provides a path to purpose.

‘Who they are’

And then there are those like Brooks’ younger son, Weston, who join because they’ve always been military-minded. Weston, 20, also an Army reservist, is with the 50th MP Company in Apex.

“Weston enlisted because that’s who he is. He’s been commando since age 2,” Brooks says, her blue eyes glowing. “Jordan was about bettering himself, being part of something that might make a difference. That’s just the nature of who they are.”

She’s asked Jordan numerous times what keeps him going through all he has seen and experienced in Afghanistan.

“He says, ‘Mom’ – and I think this is a good lesson for all of us – ‘if I can touch one person, I can feel successful,’ and touching people means meeting them on a human level,” Brooks says.

Working to smooth relations with the Afghan people, to capture their hearts and minds, is the work Hamilton and the rest of his group of reservists are doing, even as the danger continues. Thirty-five U.S. military members died in Afghanistan last month.

Jordan’s surviving a lengthy attack has deepened his spirituality, Brooks says, and helped her realize how fragile life is – for all of us.

“It doesn’t have to be an IED, it doesn’t have to be small-arms fire, it doesn’t have to be a grenade,” Brooks says. “Truthfully, any one of us could be sitting, leaning our heads against a wall, and a circumstance we didn’t plan could change the course of our life forever – or even take it.”

How will he change?

Brooks can’t help but wonder in what other ways war will change her boy.

“I don’t know whether he’ll be a different young man when he returns, whether some of that Pollyanna, lightheartedness will be put out of him,” she says. “He’s extremely grateful that he survived. I believe he understands it could have gone much differently.”

Until Jordan and the rest of his company come back, a moment that remains months and months away, his mother will be doing everything she can on her end “working, supporting, being there, being a testimony, and then all I can do is release it.”

And pray.

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