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A Soldier’s Duty, A Mother’s Faith
I don’t know why my son does what he does, but I am proud of him. 

What parents in this day and age don’t look into the face of their newborn and think, One day, my child will grow up to be a doctor, lawyer or a teacher. But a soldier?

Some of those who have died were friends of our son. It’s like losing a member of your own family.

Twenty-six years ago, we never gave the Canadian Armed Forces a thought as a future for our son.

We named him Matthew (gift from God) William (bold protector) Lewis (renowned battle). So it shouldn’t have surprised us that, with a name like that, he would grow up to be a soldier. Had we known then, we might have named him Chuck!

The truth is, we would not have changed a thing. Our son, the soldier, has made us very proud. He serves his country bravely. He has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and has returned well in mind, body and spirit.

Doing the right thing

When thinking about being the parent of a soldier, many words pass through my mind. Words like fear and joy, shame and anger.

Every day while our boy was overseas, we prayed for his safekeeping. We lived every day in fear that we would get bad news about our son. Nobody likes to be awakened in the middle of the night by a ringing telephone. I would be afraid to pick up the receiver and then relieved to hear the voice at the other end saying, “Sorry, wrong number.” We often ignored the newspaper and turned off the television when the news came on.

When we did watch the newscasts or read the paper, I cried a lot. I cried with relief when my son was not mentioned and then I’d cry some more because I knew that another family would be torn up by the terrible news, and I was ashamed of my joy. Even now, I am sick with grief when I hear of the loss of another life. Some of those who have died were friends of our son. It’s like losing a member of your own family.

When Matthew came home on leave and was preparing to go back, it took everything in me not to beg him to stay. I joked with him about breaking his legs so he couldn’t return. He tried to reassure me he would be OK. Matthew was brave; I was not!

I was angry—at myself, at the government for placing our boy in harm’s way, I was even angry at my son for wanting to go over there, even if it was to do the right thing.

Heart and soul

Another word that passes through my mind is faith. Our faith kept us strong. We prayed that God would protect our boy, and He did.

There were times when I felt as if I was hanging by my fingernails, daring to believe that God would be faithful and bring Matthew home alive. God heard our petitions and answered us when many other parents have not been as fortunate. Matthew came home alive and well. We can’t presume to know why God chooses to answer yes to some prayers and no to others, but I am still overwhelmed by His faithfulness.

One more word comes to mind: pride. I am bubbling over with pride for what our son and so many other men and women in uniform are doing for our country and for those who are unable to defend themselves.

I can’t understand where their bravery comes from and I can’t honestly say I understand what this conflict is about. Matthew knows, and knows clearly. He’s tried to explain it to me, but I’m still uncertain. But this I understand. I am proud of what he has chosen to do. He does it with all of his heart and soul.

I am proud he is a soldier, and I am proud he is our son.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, November 9, 2009.

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