Ricks: Proud, but scared

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jane and Tobbie Ricks pose with Jonathan the day of his deployment to Afghanistan.

Jane and Tobbie Ricks pose with Jonathan the day of his deployment to Afghanistan.

A mother’s love for her child is possibly the strongest emotion, but what does a mother do when that child is sent off to war?

She prays.

“That’s my advice to any mother – anyone who has to send the person they love off to fight,” said Andalusia’s Jane Ricks, a special education aide at Andalusia Elementary School talking about her son, Jonathan, who is currently serving his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. A 2005 Andalusia High School graduate, Jonathan – or Sgt. Ricks as he’s known to members of 1151st Engineering unit out of Huntsville – was deployed in September. He and his wife, Ashton, have a 17-month old daughter, Lily, and a 2-week-old son, Lucas. The family lives in Woodstock, Ala. As a National Guardsman, Jonathan works for Walter Energy in the underground coalmines.

Ricks said watching her son leave in September was difficult.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Ricks said.  “I still get emotional just because I’m so proud of him, but as a mother, I’m so terrified. I have such conflicting emotions because he’s my baby. The mother in me says, “No. Don’t go. Stay here and be safe.’ He had a duty to do, and he is doing it.”

Jonathan followed his father and both his grandfathers in military service. The family works to maintain contact throughout the deployment, Ricks said.

“Before he left, we talked every day,” she said. “I just bought an iPad mini, so now I can Facetime and iMessage him. Before that, it was Facebook messages. They only get a few calls home, and he calls his wife, which is what I would expect him to do.”

Ricks said she doesn’t know why her son joined the military, only that he plans to make a career of it.

“Just one day he said, ‘This is what I want to do,’” she said. “You don’t want to talk them out of it, but you say, ‘Are you sure?’”

Ricks said she has this advice for families facing deployment.

“Take one day at a time,” she said. “You tell yourself to not watch the news. To not read newspapers about what’s going on, but you have to know. You have to pray that God is protecting him and the others.

“The last thing I said before (Jonathan) left, I looked him in the eye and said, ‘You don’t worry about anything over here. We’ll take care of that. You worry about your mission and coming back home. Keep yourself focused.”