---- — ‘Thank loved ones who support you’
As I grow older and I hope wiser, it’s my belief that we are truly influenced by only a select few during our limited time on this earth. Fortunately for me, my mother was my greatest influence.
The difficult pill for me to swallow is that my mom passed very unexpectedly last year, and I never got the chance to truly tell her how much her support meant to me.
When telling one’s story, it’s always best to start from the beginning, so here goes.
Growing up as a child in a Midwestern manufacturing town, the idea of joining the military or attending college seemed as farfetched as winning the lottery. Factory work was what my father did and so did his father. It was what was expected of me, and at the time seemed like the thing to do.
At 18 years old, I started to see the friends that I had disappear, moving on to bigger and better things. Quickly, the harsh realization that my less-than-stellar career as a C student was catching up to me. We still joke to this day that I was blessed with my father’s height and cursed with my mother’s math skills.
We all see the 60-second Army commercials on television that promise travel and change to people willing to accept the challenge. Sixty seconds was all the thought I put into my decision and ran to the recruiting station. Within less than a week, I was in the Army.
When I returned home to tell my parents the good news, my father was less than excited. He himself served four years in the Air Force during Vietnam and didn’t feel I had the necessary skills or motivation to excel in military service. In hindsight, I don’t blame him. Thinking back to my childhood, the only things that got me excited were video games and cake, both of which I still enjoy to this day.
My mother reacted differently and was more than pleased. It was probably one of her proudest moments and, to be honest, it felt good seeing her this way. My decision to accept the responsibility of military service spurred many conversations about achieving goals and breaking stereotypes — moments that I hold very dearly in my heart to this day and will never forget.
For the first time in my life, I had a career and opportunities for advancement. Mom was there every step of the way. Before I left for basic training, she gave me an angel pin that I carry to this day. She had a special gift that made me feel like, no matter how far I traveled, I was always home.
After four years of service, she backed my decision to leave active duty and pushed me to attend college. She was proud when I joined the Army Reserve and used tuition assistance to obtain my graduate degree.
It only seemed fitting to honor my mother by submitting my direct commission packet and become an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. To this day, I can still remember my mother with tears in her eyes as she pinned on my lieutenant bar.
I will never forget how she loved Civil War-era novels and the romanticism that went along with being an Army officer. She envisioned officers at fancy dinners smoking cigars, wearing swords and escorting Southern belles onto the dance floor. I never had the heart to break it to her that things had changed.
Mom herself never served in the military, but she was with me during every deployment, training exercise and transition in my life and military career. Even in poor health she managed to attend every event and ceremony I took part in.
In 2012, she attended my unit deployment ceremony to hear me give closing remarks as the company commander. I will never forget that she was worried her wearing an oxygen mask would embarrass me. I could never be ashamed of my mom, but that’s just the way she was. Always thinking of others first and herself second.
The hardships and challenges that soldiers endure are also felt by the people who love and support them. As I reflect on my service, I am proud of what I accomplished and continue to achieve. I am thankful to both my mother and the Army for providing me the tools to achieve them.
In retrospect, I urge you to take time to thank the loved ones who support you and make your goals obtainable. I cannot count all the times strangers have shaken my hand and thanked me for my service and sacrifice for our country. I only wish I would’ve taken the time to thank her, letting her know just how important she was and will always be.
Capt. Chad Nixon