The past three months have felt more like three years for Portland Frame.
Daily texts from her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Payton Douglas, kept her anxiety down during his deployment to Afghanistan. It wasn’t until she wrapped her arms around his neck at a homecoming Friday, however, that she finally felt that tension between her shoulders melt away.
“I cried,” Frame said at her North Augusta apartment. “I cried because of what he went through. I cried because he was there.”
Douglas, 19, sat in a recliner in the corner of her living room under one of two red-white-and-blue banners reading “Welcome Home.”
He joined the Marines right out of high school in Lawton, Okla., so he could “be part of the best.”
“I thought I joined too late to even go over there, but that’s what I wanted to do,” Douglas said.
On June 28, just over a month into his deployment, Douglas was wounded by a roadside bomb while riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy of more than 60 vehicles. He was partially exposed to the blast as the gunner of a 14-ton mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle. A mine roller in the front of the MRAP truck triggered a bomb that blew up behind them. Douglas remembers bits of the explosion: a bright white flash, a concussion that hit him like a wall.
Douglas, the driver and the vehicle commander were flown by helicopter to the wounded warrior unit at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, where they were treated and released six days later. He texted his mother that same day to let her know he was all right.
Frame works at the uptown Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and spends time daily with former Marines. She still worries about the lasting effects her son might experience from his mild traumatic brain injury. It worries her that he doesn’t always sleep well and that he keeps to himself about his experiences in the war.
She takes comfort, though, in knowing her son is home and in the responsibility and leadership he shows.
“Sometimes I’ll look back at pictures of him when he was a little guy and wonder, ‘Is he really a Marine?’ ” she said. “But he’s doing things on his own now. Those values are instilled in him.”