Gold Star Mother Re-enlists

  • Published
  • By Michele Norris
  • 916th ARW
(Editor's note: Michele Norris participated in a mass enlistment October 11 at the Vietnam Memorial, Washington D.C. The mass enlistment swore into service ten individuals who that day became members of the Air Force Reserves. The oath was administered by Col. William T. Cahoon, commander of the 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, MD, and attended by friends and family of the new recruits, as well as the responsible recruiters from the Joint Base Andrews recruiting office and Detachment 1, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ.) 

It was exactly four years to the day after my son, Jeremy Michael Hodge was born that I initially enlisted into the U. S. Air Force, July 07, 1989. Coincidence? I'm not sure. Six years later, July 7, 1995, again on my son's birthday I re-enlisted in the Air Force Reserve and served until 1998. Coincidence again? I'm not sure. 

My son's life has closely followed my military career, not only in regards to these significant dates, but also with pride in his ultimate decision to join the military himself. Jeremy was a precocious child with so many aspirations for his life. He had a wide-range of interests, from football, baseball, and NASCAR racing to performing in his high school show choir. What ever his choice of activity, he always gave 100 percent - particularly when it came to his three sisters Alyssa, Nicole and Denise. As most brothers do when it comes to annoying their sisters, I believe he gave 110 percent. 

I was not surprised when Jeremy first came to me with his idea of joining the military. I knew that his zest for life and determination to change the world would serve him well in the military. He was a young man with the energy, determination and perseverance to conquer and succeed in anything he desired. Our conversations regarding which military branch he should join played out much like a volleyball game. I wanted him to join the Air Force, but he did not want to follow those footsteps; he wanted to make his own footprints in the world. 

He decided to join the Ohio Army National Guard and entered service on Feb. 10, 2004 with the 612th Engineer Battalion, Tiffin, Ohio. Many parents during this time of turmoil had great trepidation with the idea of their son or daughter joining the military. Even with the known possible consequences of military service, I was tremendously proud of the decision that my son made because I knew he was destined for success. Although I knew he was destined for success, what I did not know was exactly how he would ultimately define his success.

On Oct. 10, 2005, Jeremy was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a devastating day in the lives of his family and friends; a day in which the meaning of "ultimate sacrifice" became a severe reality; a reality in which so many other families have endured as well; a day that changed my life and the lives of his family forever. Jeremy gave me the title of mother and now the title of Gold Star Mother - both titles associated with sacrifice and pride; both titles filled with devotion and honor. Regardless of particular political views, thousands of young men and women have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedom of this country and the sovereignty that we embrace everyday. It is our duty as Americans to never forget these fallen heroes. We should honor them every day in our lives.

Although many do not understand the "calling" to military service, I continue to have a need and desire to serve (for those of you who have had the honor to serve, I need not explain). With the support and understanding of my family and friends, I decided to continue my military journey in the Air Force Reserve. It has been 11 years since I separated from the Air Force, a significant break in service. During this time, I achieved great personal and professional successes. Successes, experiences and leadership achievements that I want to share in order to make a positive impact on my country and to those who so unselfishly serve her. To achieve my goals, on the eve of my son's anniversary- Oct. 9, 2009 - I enlisted into the Air Force Reserve.

The swearing in ceremony was held at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Training Academy in Quantico Virginia. I was sworn in by Colonel Rich Anderson, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Officer, Office of Military Support, Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Col. Anderson and I met as a result of the Gold Star that I honorably display. The insignia of the gold star enclosed in a red rectangle signifies a Gold Star family member. Col. Anderson recognized the Gold Star immediately and wanted to hear the story of my son. When Col. Anderson heard of the news that I was going to reenlist, he volunteered to administer the oath of enlistment. It was truly a remarkable day for such a significant date. The date of my re-enlistment - Oct. 9, 2009 - I did not choose; although a date I am confident will again change my life just as my son did. A date of coincidence? You decide.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving in the armed services; I look forward to again getting the opportunity to work with you.
Dedicated to all of the parents who have lost a son or daughter, God bless you and your family.
Michele Norris