Jackie Somers refused to think her son could be in danger.
She accepted that Johnathan Somers was somewhere else, but in her mind it wasn’t Iraq.
“He was not overseas in a war,” she said.
Denial didn’t get her far in 2005. The nightly broadcasts were crammed with images of carnage and stories of suicide bombers. She was horrified when she heard that her son’s convoy got lost. In her mind, she could already hear the Army casualty assistance officer knocking on her door.
“I was dying inside,” she said.
Johnathan Somers was 17 when he enlisted in the Army Reserve. His parents respected his decision and signed the papers on the kitchen table at their home in Martinez. The educational benefits took him to North Georgia College, where he was studying business administration on Sept. 11, 2001.
Johnathan Somers begged the Army to release him from his commitment to become an officer so that he could travel with his unit for the invasion of Iraq. The Army eventually relented; he told his parents goodbye at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Though her son didn’t outwardly show his emotion, Somers still struggles through tears to describe that first farewell.
“I didn’t want to let him go. They had to practically pull him out of my arms,” she said, laughing.
Her son spent his 23rd birthday on the border between Iraq and Kuwait, where, he says jokingly, the Scud missiles flying overhead were in his honor. Technically, the 319th Transportation Company was not intended for combat, but it was attached to the Marines pressing deep into Iraq and experienced fierce fighting.
Communication with her son was dodgy that far in advance of the regular forces, but Somers had a special table at Barnes & Noble where she would write her son letters two or three times a week. It was a ritual she repeated during his second tour of Iraq.
Somers also made sure friends, family and her church were constantly sending care packages to encourage her son and his friends.
“All that matters when he is overseas is John,” Somers said. “Nothing else matters.”
Johnathan Somers doesn’t talk much about his experiences, which included a tour in Afghanistan in 2009. Most of what he shared was with his father, Fred Somers. But for Jackie Somers’ anxiety, the restless nights and the dread, she remains supportive of her son and his service.
“He was fighting not just for the United States, but for Fred and I,” Somers said. “I’m proud as hell of him.”