Sons follow in Mother's footsteps

By Sgt. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown
13th SC(E), LSA Anaconda PAO

LSA ANACONDA, Iraq — The near-identical dimples make the association unmistakable; mother and son. Both clad in Army Combat Uniforms and smiling at each other incessantly, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other in more than six months.

This year, Mother’s Day came early for Maj. Cynthia A. Lerch, operations officer for the 4th Corps Materiel Management Center, in the form of a visit from her son, Sgt. Justin D. Lerch, an intelligence analyst with 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division April 28.

Maj. Lerch, stationed on Anaconda since fall 2006, first found out her son would be coming to Iraq in December. Although Sgt. Lerch’s unit is stationed at Camp Taji, the Lerchs’ kept in close contact to coordinate a meeting on his way through Anaconda.

Although Maj. Lerch said she wasn’t sure of the exact date her son would be arriving in Iraq, or even if he’d be passing through Anaconda, she did her best to make sure they had a chance to see each other.

“We’ve been in contact since he arrived in Kuwait,” Maj. Lerch said. “I’ve had guys in Kuwait watching out for him.” 

As the first deployment for both family members, the younger Lerch said it felt strange to see his mom in a combat zone.

“This is the best Mother’s Day present I could ever have,” she said. “It could only be better if my other two sons were here.”

Lerch has two other sons serving in the military, Martin and Aaron, and as Sgt. Lerch said, military service is a “family business.”

“Our ‘rule’ at home was that the boys were allowed one year off or free time after graduation from high school, then they either had to go to college full-time, work full-time or join the service,” Lerch said.

She said each of her sons decided to join the military on their own accord; Martin joined the Air Force, and Aaron and Justin joined the Army.

“It is not often that sons follow in their mother’s footsteps, but mine did,” Lerch, said. “I don’t know how to describe the pride I feel for my boys. Knowing that as men, they are choosing to serve in the military – not because it’s the easy road, because it is certainly not – but because they have watched me, feel the commitment to their comrades, and want to impart some special piece of themselves to the world for their children and future children.”

The grandmother of three said as a family, they are proud to serve their country, and separations during deployments only make them stronger.

“We all email all the time,” she said of her military-serving family.

Currently, three Lerch family-members are deployed. To keep connected even when situations such as communications blackouts prohibited phone and email usage, the family came up with a plan.

“We worried all the time and eventually devised a system for those times that email or phones were blocked,” Maj. Lerch said. “Aaron was to go to the Post Exchange and charge anything – a Coke, a candy bar, anything just so we could check his account and know that he was all right.”

She said the program worked out well, and that she believes in fate and destiny, which is why she doesn’t waste time worrying about her sons when they deploy.

One of the biggest things that I tell all my boys is to learn their Regulations – believe it or not. Not everyone you will meet in the Army, just as in Civilian life, has your best interests at heart. You must know what you can and can’t do and what others can and can’t do to you, Lerch said. That is paramount.

“We have a ‘deployment candle’ (an electric one) that burns continuously while one of our family members is deployed,” Maj. Lerch said.

The candle has been burning almost non-stop since October 2005 and will continue to burn until sometime in 2008, she said.

Here on Anaconda, even though the two Lerch’s only got to spend a few hours together, they said they made the best of it.

“Just to see each other for the fist time (after so long) … I couldn’t stop smiling,” the major said.

Lerch said she would love to visit her son in Taji if she has a mission to go there before her deployment ends.

Upon returning home, the Riverside, Calif. natives are anticipating the birth of Sgt. Lerch’s new baby.

His wife, who is six months pregnant, is expecting to give birth at about the same time Maj. Lerch will finish her deployment.

If only for a few moments, the military and coincidence brought a service-serving family together for a Mother’s Day to remember.