After more than 4,200 American deaths and six years of armed conflict, the Iraq War has yet to come to a halt. Although the war continues to take a toll on U.S. service members, three families from East Grand Rapids High School remain hopeful for the war’s end. These families support their loved ones and respect their decision to answer the call of civic duty.
Two sisters and one father had to say farewell to their brothers and son as they left for the army. One of these soldiers has traveled to Iraq and two have left for basic training in attempts to end the war. Fortunately, one soldier returned home from the war. The others await their duty.
'A changed man'
Senior Jasmine Tyson bid her older brother Jevon farewell when he left for Iraq in August 2007.
"[When he was over there] it was the scariest time of my life," Jasmine said uneasily.
Jevon and Jasmine would frequently email, but rarely talked on the telephone. He worked in the middle of the night, making it difficult to communicate. Upon returning from Iraq in December 2008, Jevon has four years of service left. His remaining years in the armed forces are more promising.
"Jevon is now playing on the US Army basketball team," she said with a laugh.
Jasmine morally disagrees with the war, but still supports her brother’s mission. According to Jasmine, Jevon is a changed man after being in the midst of war.
"I wasn’t mad [he enlisted]. I was proud of him. He matured a lot too," she said.
A son to be proud of
Jasmine’s former gym teacher, Scott Tompkins, shares the same sentiment. Tompkins wakes up every morning, dresses in a t-shirt and sweats, and prepares for work. His son Dillon wakes up every morning and dresses in fatigues. He, too, is preparing for work. Tompkins trains students to be mentally and physically stronger, while Dillon trains for war at basic training.
"I’m incredibly proud of his decision," Tompkins said "But it’s scary as a parent. You don’t want that knock on your door."
In November 2008, Dillon came to his family with an idea. "[He said,] ‘Dad, I want to enlist. I want to do something to make people proud,’" Tompkins reflected.
Dillon headed off to Fort Alpusso’s Patriot Missile Training on December 30, 2008 and is expected to return in the middle of March.
Getting 'past the politics'
Josh Decker, who graduated in 2008, recently placed his family in a similar situation. His sister, freshman Ali Decker, was not surprised when he decided to go to basic training.
"He has always wanted to enlist. It’s just kind of a part of him I guess," she said.
Decker left for Ranger Training in July 2008. He comes home during holidays and is expected to finish training soon. His father Jeremy Decker also supports his son, yet understands the complexity of war.
"We need to get past the politics. We spent more on the bailout than the entire Iraqi conflict. The war was all political," Decker said. He believes that his son’s time in the armed forces is teaching him important life lessons. "He understands our freedoms and the preservation of freedom. I am proud of my son," he concluded.
As the war reaches its sixth year anniversary in March, the Obama administration looks to withdraw troops from Iraq in the next 16 months, more than seven years after it began. As sons, brothers, and fathers are shipped over seas, communities continue to support soldiers and hope that this war will soon come to an end.