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Military Teen Copes With Parents’ Absence

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., April 23, 2010 – At age 16, Cornelius Madison already has moved five times, started five new schools and has dealt with two deployments within three years.

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Cornelius Madison, right, greets his best friend, Brian Keith, between classes at Fort Campbell High School on Fort Campbell, Ky., April 15, 2010. DoD photo by Elaine Wilson

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But it’s not the separations or multiple first days at new schools that gets to him. It’s the string of best friends he has had to leave behind.

“You go somewhere and meet that best friend and then you got to say, ‘I gotta go,’” he said. “But that’s part of military life.”

The sophomore at Fort Campbell High School here strives to maintain a laid-back outlook, he said, even in the face of some weighty challenges.

Cornelius’ mother, Army Staff Sgt. Asia Lowe, and stepfather, Army Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Lowe, departed for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan about a month ago, their second deployment in three years.

Rather than force Cornelius and his two younger siblings to switch up schools midyear, they asked a local family friend to take them in. Their friend agreed, even through her husband also is deployed and she has three kids of her own.

Cornelius would prefer to stay with his grandmother in New Orleans like he did the first time his parents deployed, but he stuck it out here for his siblings.

“I do it for my little brother and sister,” he said. “My brother looks up to me, so I make sure I stay on the right path and do my best around him. As long as I’m around, he’s OK.”

Although packed into a house with six other people and on his “best behavior” most of the time, Cornelius said this deployment isn’t as tough as the first.

“It didn’t really hurt me talking about it, but I was hesitant,” Cornelius said, in describing his feelings about his parents’ first deployment. He realized, “This is war and they could die.”

Cornelius is coping better this time around, he said, especially since he has his best friend, Brian Keith, for support. His 8-year-old sister, though, has been crying almost every night, he said.

For Cornelius, his only concern is his mother’s safety.

“I don’t like to see her go,” he said. “You only get one mom. As long as she’s alive, I’m fine, though. That’s how I was brought up, to keep going.”

Cornelius said his mother taught him perseverance. She was born in the projects in New Orleans, he said, and joined the Army when Cornelius was a baby to make better life for her family. A helicopter mechanic, she met and married Cornelius’ stepfather three years ago. Her career has taken her family far beyond New Orleans to places such as Georgia, Texas, Hawaii, Virginia and now Kentucky.

Cornelius said he doesn’t mind the moves so much, but acknowledged he’d prefer that his parents deployed at different times. He understands their call to service, though.

“I’m proud of my Mom,” he said, acknowledging that some “people have it worse.”

“But still, I have my moments,” he said.

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