As Susan Butler talked to her son, Michael, on the phone he suddenly heard shouting in the background: “Incoming! Incoming!”
Behind him, she heard bombs exploding.
“Mom, I’ve got to go — I’ll give you a call when things calm down.”
Butler hung up the phone to wait.
“I knew everything would probably be OK,” she said. Still, she felt relieved when he called a half-hour later to confirm his Army unit in Afghanistan had everything under control.
Like thousands of Americans, Butler waits anxiously at home while her children fight in Afghanistan.
Butler has not one, but two sons currently serving in Afghanistan. She has a quiet serenity to her demeanor, but the stress of having both sons in a war-torn country simmers below the surface.
She has created a flier for her friends and family with photos of her with her youngest son, Michael, in fatigues in front of the helicopter he flies. Another picture shows her oldest, David, striding toward the helicopter he flies. In the middle of the two pictures is a photo of the brothers standing together in front of the U.S. and Army flags. The two smile for the camera with quiet confidence. The message below the pictures asks for prayers to help the boys come home.
David Murray, Chief Warrant Officer 2, U.S. Army, Kiowa (Helicopter) test pilot and Michael Murray, Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Army, Apache (Helicopter) pilot, are stationed together at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, when they’re not deployed to a war zone.
Between the two of them, Butler’s sons have served five tours in Afghanistan during a combined 21 years in the Army.
Butler said the boys have always been close throughout their lives. Even now, they have homes only five miles from each other in Kentucky.
Yet, she said having both of them in Afghanistan at the same time “is absolutely the toughest.”
She has good reason to worry. Since the War on Terror began after the 9/11 attacks, about 7,000 military personnel have died in the line of duty.
Those soldiers had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, children and a host of loved ones.
The social and economic impact to families is the quiet story behind the wars fought, according to the organization Costs of War (costsofwar.org).
For the first time in U.S. history, the military has asked its soldiers to return over and over to heavy fighting, which has taken a heavy emotional and mental toll — not only on the military personnel, but on their families as well, said the Costs of War organization.
The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention estimates almost 700,000 children have had a parent deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
These families experience a host of emotional and mental strains, including disruptions in sleep, anger management, emotional outbursts, trouble at jobs or school, illness and a lack of enthusiasm for life.
Butler keeps her spirits up by sending messages via Facebook to her boys. She said it helps to keep in constant contact.
Although the brothers are both stationed in the eastern quadrant of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, Butler said the two boys miss each other terribly since they do not serve on the same base.
Recently, to keep their spirits up, the Army allowed Michael to fly over to see his older brother David.
“That really helped,” said Butler.
She said the Payson Supply Line has sent the boys boxes throughout their five deployments. “These boxes are a great ministry,” said Butler.
Each box has enough Bibles, socks, toiletries, gum and snacks for five soldiers. She said the support the boys receive from the boxes lifts their spirits and reminds them folks stateside support them.