Balancing family and country

Army Spc. Rebekka Jaworsky walks with sons Timothy, 5, right, and Lawrence, 3, after picking up Timothy from his bus stop Wednesday. Jaworsky is about to start her second tour in Iraq.
Army Spc. Rebekka Jaworsky walks with sons Timothy, 5, right, and Lawrence, 3, after picking up Timothy from his bus stop Wednesday. Jaworsky is about to start her second tour in Iraq.

Today, a 5-year-old kindergartner named Timothy at brand-new India Hook Elementary School will get off the school bus. His mother will be there to greet him, like mothers do.

"Not going to work today, right?" Timothy will ask.

Mom's name is Rebekka Jaworsky. She is 26 years old. She will say, "Not today."

Friday, Jaworsky will meet the bus, and she will be wearing a uniform with her name stitched on the front and desert boots. A couple of hours later, Timothy and his little brother, Lawrence, 3, will stand at the end of the driveway and wave goodbye.

For 15 months.

"My mom works in Iraq," Timothy said.

Moms who are ammunition specialists in the U.S. Army, who have been in the Army since enlisting before graduating Northwestern High School in 2000, they go to Iraq where the work is.

Even those moms like Jaworsky, who have been to Iraq before.

Jaworsky, based at the Army's post at Fort Bragg, N.C., didn't have to volunteer to go back to Iraq to work in a munitions depot. But a job was open with a unit deploying overseas. She knew she would likely go back to Iraq again, sooner or later, like most active- duty soldiers.

She thought about these two sons of hers she has custody of and worried about what was the right thing to do. Go now, to a place and job where she knew what she was getting into. Or go later, and maybe get assigned to a spot where the unknowns could be worse.

"I knew I would be missing out on a lot," Jaworsky said. "I had a tough decision."

Jaworsky didn't have to ask her mother, grandparents, aunts and cousins, to take care of the boys. The family volunteered. Like this family always has.

When Jaworsky was in Iraq before, her mother, Cindy Jaworsky, baby-sat. In Germany. Cindy Jaworsky went to where Jaworsky was based and took care of the kids.

Since Rebekka Jaworsky returned to Fort Bragg a few months ago, the boys have stayed in Rock Hill with their grandmother. Rebekka Jaworsky would work all week on base, then rush home for weekends.

"We have Timothy signed up for soccer," Jaworsky said.

She said that line like any soccer mom in a minivan would, not one who carries a submachine gun and rides in a tank.

The boys also spend a lot of time at the home of their grandparents, Worth and Nancy Chappell.

There is family concern over Jaworsky going to Iraq, but Cindy Jaworsky said the boys are used to her, and the family can reunite.

Worth Chappell looks at it this way: "Maybe if she goes this time, it will be the last time she ever has to go," he said.

But nobody knows when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will end. This week's big Washington, D.C., news has been about troop surges and troop withdrawals. A general and an ambassador telling Congress opinions on whether we are winning, and what to do next.

Politicians decide what happens next, Jaworsky said. Not mothers who are military weapons experts who also are raising two kids. Not soldiers such as Jaworsky with an enlistment that runs through 2009 with plans to re-enlist after that.

Those moms just leave. Of about 190 people in Jaworsky's Army unit, about a fourth are women, she said. Many have children. At least five are "sending kids home to stay with their mommas and grandmommas," Jaworsky said, "just like me."

That's what war means in Rock Hill, whether anybody agrees with the Iraq war. It means at school a little boy, one of the best at coloring in his class, will finish another picture of his mother at work. It will probably show sand, a uniform and an American flag.

When that picture gets folded and put in the mail, for the mom to tack up at work like moms do, it will be wet with tears.

• To view a photo gallery of Rebekka Jaworsky and her sons, go to www.heraldonline.com/galleries