Mother Shows Resolve, Faith in Sending Sons to Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 14, 2005 It's tough for any mother to send a son off to combat, but Debbie Woods from Princeton, W. Va., has had lots of practice.
Three of five Woods boys serving in the Army are, from left, Spc. George Woods, currently serving in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division; Spc. Jonathan Woods, a reservist with the 105th Military Police Company; and Staff Sgt. Steven Woods, who returned from Iraq in February with the 1st Cavalry Division. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
She and her husband, Harold, have sent three sons to Iraq five times in all, are getting ready to send one of them again, and watched two other sons in the Army Reserve get called to active duty to serve stateside.
"You just watch them go and you say a lot of prayers," Woods said of her five oldest sons' deployments.
"You have a little bit of fear," she admitted. "But then, you're proud of what your sons are doing and that they want to serve their country. That makes me proud."
Woods' son, Spc. George Woods, has been in the Army for just four years, yet he's already a seasoned veteran of duty in Iraq. He's serving his third deployment there, with the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade.
Before that, Woods deployed with the 10th Mountain Division from February to May 2003, then volunteered to return to Iraq from September 2004 to March 2004 to serve alongside his brother, Staff Sgt. Richard Woods.
Richard Woods, an Operation Desert Storm veteran, returned from his first rotation in Iraq in March 2004 with the 110th Military Intelligence Battalion out of Fort Drum, N.Y. Now he's preparing for another deployment to Iraq in June, this time with the Georgia National Guard's 248th Military Intelligence Company.
Another son, Staff Sgt. Steven Woods, also a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, returned in February from the second Operation Iraqi Freedom rotation, with the 1st Cavalry Division's 458th Engineer Battalion.
Two more sons, Staff Sgt. Clayton Woods and Spc. Jonathan Woods, both were called up for active duty with their Army Reserve unit, the 105th Military Police Company, and served at Fort Stewart, Ga. Clayton is a veteran of Somalia, where he served with the 987th Military Police Company, attached to the 10th Mountain Division.
Rattling off her sons' deployments "takes some people by shock," Debbie Woods said, but she's not surprised that they wanted to serve in the military. They're the family's fourth generation of soldiers, and their grandfather served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
The Woods brothers were members of the Junior ROTC during high school. Most joined the Army during school or just after. Jonathan joined after graduating from college.
"They were raised in a very patriotic family, so I guess it just came naturally," she said.
Youngest brother Andrew Woods said he'd like to follow in his older brothers' footsteps, but he's at home, waiting to celebrate his fifth cancer-free year before approaching the Army. In the meantime, he said, he's proud of his older brothers and their service.
"I don't want them to go, but I'm glad they're doing it," he told his local newspaper. "If they and others won't protect us, then who will?"
Passersby at their family home may not know the Woods' boys' service history, but they quickly grasp the sense of patriotism. Yellow ribbons line the carport, a magnetic yellow ribbon graces the family car, and a U.S. flag flies by the front door, alongside a flag from the Blue Star Mothers with five blue stars, representing the family's five children serving in the military.
Debbie said she prays regularly that she never has to replace one of those blue stars with a gold one, a tradition begun during World War II to symbolize the loss of a loved one in combat. She said she looks forward to the day when she can remove the yellow ribbons and have all her sons home for good. But until then, she said, she's getting by with telephone calls and e-mails from Iraq, and lots of prayers.
"I don't think people know the sacrifices the military makes to protect our freedom," she said.