Brothers at war: Mom worries for two sons serving in Iraq
The tears welling up in Bridget Moore’s brown eyes could be tears of joy.
Her oldest son, Jason Booth, is on his way back from Iraq this month, for 25 days of what the Army calls block leave. He’ll be home for two weeks, then he’s back on base at Fort Riley in Kansas for a year.
But Moore’s tears are for her second-oldest, who won’t be back from Iraq in time to see his older brother. She’s not sure when he’ll get leave again — late August is her best guess. Until then, 19-year-old David Warner remains stationed near Adwar, Iraq.
Being a mother of a soldier on the front lines is hard. Being the mother of two is harder. She can tell you about the hours spent online looking for news from Iraq, about being a pillar for the boys’ younger brother and older sister.
About dreading a phone call.
“I guess I’m hoping for the one day when they can both be home for good,” Moore said Tuesday.
Then she changes the subject. Sometimes, it’s just too hard to dwell on how far away her sons are these days.
“I am so proud of them,” she said. “They have grown up to be responsible men. They have really strong wives, and they love their kids.”
So close, and yet ...
A standout athlete at Harlem High School, Jason decided to join the Army after what he and his mother call a “rough patch” after his 2004 graduation.
“I had hit a rough spot in my life where the jobs weren’t coming as I wanted, and college wasn’t working for me either,” Jason wrote in an e-mail from Iraq.
“I was losing grasps on who I was and what I was doing with my life.”
The soul-searching led him to the recruiting office on West State Street in Rockford. In October 2005, at age 20, Jason Booth signed up.
“He’s a good guy,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lloyd Cossey, who oversees the local recruiting operation. “Both he and his brother. Good guys. Good athletes.”
The fit worked. Jason, 22, has since spent some of his leave time helping the local recruiting effort at his alma mater. He also married his sweetheart, Jessica, and the couple celebrated the birth of their son, Kaden, 10 months ago.
3 months after graduation
David was different.
He wanted to join the Army ever since he was 16.
And when his older brother — David calls Jason his role model — signed up, “it just made it that much easier to do,” he wrote in an e-mail from his base near the village of Adwar.
He went from cap and gown in spring 2007 to helmet and boots in a matter of weeks, his mom said.
“I wish he hadn’t left so quickly,” Moore said. “For him, it was three months after graduation.”
And just a week after he married Ashley.
“I knew when I met him that he wanted to be in the Army,” said Ashley, who moved back to Machesney Park with their 13-month old son, Gavin, this week.
“I knew it would be hard with him away, but it’s harder than I thought. There’s no one to eat dinner with, no one to help around the house and do things with.”
But they do talk. Twice a day, Ashley says. Jason calls home, too.
That’s easier, it turns out, than it is for the brothers to stay in touch, even though they’re a lot closer to each other than they are to their families.
“We both have very demanding schedules so we catch each other on Yahoo messenger when we can, but other than that there is no contact between the two of us,” Jason wrote about his in-country sibling.
Moore says Jason doesn’t tell her too many of his stories from Iraq. David, on the other hand, likes to talk about the details.
Both sons ride the top turret on Humvees behind .50-caliber machine guns. Jason once sent her a video that showed his unit under attack.
“It was cool,” she said. “Until it hit me: They’re shooting at my son.”
She asked him not to send any more.
Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to Jason’s homecoming, although she knows it’s only temporary.
He’s already decided to re-up when his four-year commitment ends next year.
David is considering the same thing if he can make sergeant — although Ashley says if David can’t get an assignment as a drill instructor or a recruiter, two jobs that would keep him in the States, they’ll have to have a long talk.
For the brothers, they’re just hoping to connect.
They were hoping David’s next leave would coincide with Jason’s homecoming. They found out this week it wouldn’t happen.
So maybe in late August they’ll have a chance again. The soldiers will get to hug their wives, play with their sons and — perhaps most importantly of all — be boys again.
“It has been two Christmases since the last time I’ve seen (David),” Jason wrote in his e-mail. “So I can’t wait to get together and catch up on old times and just laugh like when we were younger.”
Mike Wiser can be reached at (815)987-1377 or email@example.com.
In an e-mail exchange with the Register Star, Jason and David shared their thoughts on Jason's appearance on the March 24 cover of Newsweek.
For Jason: Tell me about how the photo came to be. Was it a surprise? Was it something planned well in advance? How do you feel being on the cover of the magazine?
Jason: Honestly the photo was a big surprise. I was getting ready for a mission and my company commander Capt. Wright said, “Booth, get your gear on for a few pix.” I had no idea what it was for until after it was all over with. I was really excited to be on the cover. I mean, I was in the newspaper in Rockford when I was playing high school football at Harlem High, but nothing like this, nothing that would be seen all over America. It was a big thrill.
For David: Your mother said you were jealous of Jason’s photo. Is that true? What do you think about it? Will he be insufferable now?
David: My mom is really crazy sometimes. I’m not jealous. My brother and I have always had this sibling rivalry. He does something and I try to do (it), but better. We always try do outdo each other. But I’m really glad Jay is on the cover of Newsweek. I won't have that chance because I am in a much smaller patrol base. I think everyone actually forgot about us down here. But there is still time. I’ll have to figure out something to do to make me known.