Something missing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

To say that she misses him this Christmas would be an understatement, said 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. Star-News readers were introduced to the Ricks’ family this Veteran’s Day.

Recently, Mrs. Ricks was asked how one deals with having a loved one deployed during Christmas.

“Three months ago, I thought I understood how families felt that were not able to spend Christmas with their family members who were deployed,” she said. “I thought I understood because I have a sister who lives in Minnesota that I haven’t seen in years. I thought I understood because my son alternates Christmas between our home and the in-laws and was not here for all of the festivities. What I didn’t consider was the fact that I was able to speak to them on a daily basis if I choose to.

“Also, that if I choose to, I could drive or fly to see them any time I wanted,” she said.

Ricks’ son 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, but experiencing his first Christmas down range is even harder.

“This Christmas I also have a new thankfulness for family – to enjoy every moment together,” she said. “It’s a new thankfulness for signs, no matter how small, from Afghanistan, that lets me know that my son is safe.”

Ricks said she depends on social media to keep the two in contact.

“I pick up my iPad every day, just to see if there is a sign that my son is OK,” she said. “I check to see if he at least read my iMessages to him to give me some reassurance that all is well in Afghanistan. I have not heard his voice since he left and I am okay with that as long as I know he gets to speak to his wife and children, no matter how brief the message.

“This Christmas I have a new respect for families of deployed family members…I now understand,” she said.