GREENFIELD — In front of their home, John and Laura Ward display proudly each day with an American flag, and a flag displaying the logos of all of the branches of the U.S. military, that they’re the proud parents of children who have served or are serving in the military.
Unlike Memorial Day, that honors those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their country, and Veterans Day which primarily honors anyone who has served, Armed Forces Day brings to the forefront those who are currently serving. The Wards have two sons currently serving and another who has.
“Our oldest, Jordan, didn’t know what he wanted to do. He was going through lots and lots of things, and one day he said he was going to go into the military,” Laura said. “He started looking into it, and long story short, he ended up going into the Army.”
Jordan began training at Camp Dodge while he was still in high school in 2012, and then their next son, Steven, had an early eye on going into the Marines Corps.
“Steven wanting to join the military was a Godsend,” said John. “It was right where he needed to be, and he put himself there.”
The next youngest son, Nick, decided in 2018 that he wanted to join the Air Force.
“Nick was the last one out of all of our kids that I would’ve expected to join the military,” John said.
Jordan was stationed for four years in Hawaii before returning to the mainland for another two years, for six years total. Nick was on assignment in the Phillipines but never deployed.
Steven has been in the Marines for four years and is the only one of the Wards’ sons who has been deployed.
“That was last year. He spent most of his time in Kuwait but Syria was where he started,” John said.
Laura remembers getting the news that Steven, who is stationed currently in California, was getting deployed.
Steven’s deployment became even longer due to COVID-19. What was supposed to be a nine-month deployment lasted a year. The unknowns made it scary for Laura, she said.
“They’re not allowed to tell us much of anything,” John added. “We didn’t know exactly where he was. You keep hearing on the news of things happening everywhere, but for them to not be able to tell you where they are, just that they’re OK, it’s kind of unnerving. We were able to talk to him every day through social media.”
Even before they had children in the military, but even more so now, the Wards have observed Red Shirt Friday, a day to wear red to “Remember Everyone Deployed.”
Laura’s nephew, Joey, was deployed and that’s what started it for them.
“Laura spoke to him a lot when he was deployed. We kept in touch with him and helped keep his mindset steady. We realized then how important it is for those of us at home to remember those who are deployed, to keep them in the forefront and not let them be forgotten,” John said.
“When Steven went into deployment, it really meant a lot,” Laura said. “Every Friday we wear it in support of those who are deployed and those in the military.”