• 81°

I’ll be home for Christmas: Wesson couple readies for holiday with their two favorite Marines

THE DAILY LEADER / KIM HENDERSON / The Broome family includes (from left): Phil, Caleb, Tyler's wife, Lauren, Tyler, Cindy, and (front) Tyler and Lauren's son, John David.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / The Broome family includes (from left): Phil, Caleb, Tyler’s wife, Lauren, Tyler, Cindy, and (front) Tyler and Lauren’s son, John David.

Tyler Broome was just a ninth grader when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, but watching the events of 9/11 unfold live on a television monitor in Lane Young’s history class that day forever impacted the Wesson student.

“I believe it’s what sealed the deal for him,” his mother Cindy says, referring to his desire to pursue a military career. “He became really committed at that point, because he felt like the United States had to retaliate.”

That’s when discussions in the Broome home suddenly became more serious. Cindy, a cardiac education nurse at UMMC in Jackson, and her husband, Phil, a retired administrator at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, had other plans for their son. Cindy remembers pleading with Tyler, “Let it be someone else. It doesn’t have to be you.”

But Tyler finally got his mother’s attention with words she obviously has never forgotten. “He said, ‘You know, Mom, if nobody went, we wouldn’t be free. Somebody has to go.'” Cindy smiles and shakes her head. “He was more mature than I thought. There was nothing more I could say.”

Tyler left for Marine boot camp the day after his high school graduation in 2005. Five years later, the Broomes found themselves having the same conversations around the dinner table – only this time it was with Tyler’s younger brother, Caleb.

“He was a senior when he expressed an interest in enlisting,” Cindy remembers. “I thought, oh, no, no, no! One’s enough.” The concerned mother admits she became more desperate as time went by, and she finally pulled out all the punches. “I told him that just because his brother joined the military, he didn’t have to. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m not doing it because of him. I’m doing it because everybody’s forgotten about all the people affected by 9/11. I have to do this.'”

Looking back on those hard moments of realization with their sons, Phil has gained some perspective.

“It is so rewarding as a father that both boys wanted to serve and do something bigger than themselves. The Marine Corps has taught them so much. Both of them matured because they had to, and they have become the finest young men a father could ever hope for.”

As part of an elite EOD unit – in civilian terms, the bomb squad – Tyler has seen his share of danger, and his share of deployments. He has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan, one on board the 22nd MEU, and one in Bahrain. Caleb’s experience, in contrast, includes serving as a team leader at a remote outpost (FOB) in Afghanistan, where the living conditions were especially difficult – months with no showers and only MREs to eat.

He also received a concussion when a tank he was riding in rolled over an IED. Worst of all, Caleb lost a fellow Mississippian and boot camp buddy. “That really bought it all home to him, the ‘being willing to give up his life’ part,” Cindy adds.

Phil is quick to point out that both Marines have gained rank as non-commissioned officers, and both received the Combat Action Ribbon and other numerous medals while in combat.

But frequent deployments have made life challenging for Tyler’s wife, Lauren, and their two-year-old son, John David. Tyler’s parents say that because of the time he’s missed with J.D., he’s decided he will not re-up next year. Caleb, too, will complete his commitment in 2014.

The Broomes have spent four of the past nine Christmases separated from their sons. “Being apart during the holidays is very difficult. It’s almost a type of grief. Everybody’s excited about their family traditions and favorite foods, but at our house, there was this big, empty spot. You spend a lot of time just hoping you’ll have another Christmas together,” Cindy explains.

Phil shares, “I prayed each day that the Lord would build a shield around them and protect them, because the anxiety of them being in combat was, at many times, overwhelming.”

That’s when the Wesson couple threw themselves into positive things. “We did Operation Shoebox, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots. We put our energy into it, reminding ourselves that we weren’t the only parents going through this during the holidays.”

This year the Broome Marines will come home for Christmas, and their parents are ecstatic. Cindy has been decorating for weeks and plans to serve every food imaginable. “They’re both health fanatics and run all the time, but I’ve already told them if I hear one word about not being able to eat my banana pudding, I’ll string them up,” she laughs.

And Phil and Cindy emphasize Who will be the focus of their celebration on Dec. 25. “I cannot imagine how we could have gotten through these years without God,” Cindy says. “The reality of Who Jesus Christ really is comes into focus when you can’t put one foot in front of the other because you’re paralyzed by worry. We are very grateful for the prayer support of our church, Wesson Baptist, the American Legion, and all our friends. We have learned so much by walking though this together as a family.”