Calling from Parris Island, loud and clear

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Last Sunday my husband searched hard for a high hill around our church out at Nola, a place where Lincoln, Lawrence and Copiah counties meet and shake hands. This was after we did an uncharacteristic stint as back-row Baptists, slipping out before the sermon was over in anticipation of a special phone call scheduled for 12:15.

“How many now?” he asked repeatedly, as we cruised past logged fields and hay bales, no other car in sight.

“Two (as in bars),” our youngest would answer back. Or none. Or four. Signal can be sketchy in those parts.

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That’s when the optimist would say something about checking up ahead, and he’d plow onward, ever closer to town and the promise of better reception. Evidently the search was successful, because the call – the one with the voice on the other end that we haven’t heard in three months – well, it came at 12:13, and we had signal to spare, parked under an oak at Union Hall. Enough, in fact, to merge with the cellular systems of Son No. 1, Son No. 2 and Daughter No. 1. in a marvel of modern technology.

So for 30 wonderful minutes our new Marine answered questions about what he’s been eating, ribbed his sister about Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss and talked gun cleaning with his dad. We also heard about the final test, the Crucible, in gushes – about marching 60 miles and the rain that fell all day Friday and why they didn’t sit down for 35 hours and how it felt to see the Iwo Jima statue at the end.

“Yesterday on the hike back, I’ve never had pain like I was having,” he shared, “but everybody kept pushing. We got back, and we took our boots off, and some guys’ feet were just torn to shreds.”

Those struggles and others throughout the boot camp experience caused many to think about a higher source of strength, which is why he also told us with emotion that he saw his prayer group grow from two to four to the whole platoon – over time. That number included a special group of recruits who had a new-found affection for Mississippi (and not just because of the sugar cookies Daughter No. 2 sent). Weeks earlier our son had given us a list of names with a request for letters.

“These guys need mail,” he wrote, expecting me to read between the lines. So I emailed friends and family, thinking a few might be looking for a way to thank those serving in our military.

It wasn’t long before we got a letter of our own: “The letters and cards that everyone sent to guys here have been INCREDIBLE. They all love Mississippi now.  I’ve seen some of them make men cry. You’ll never know how much this means to them.” And he’s one who should know what a difference a dose of ink encouragement can make. During our phone call he mentioned his footlocker is stuffed with more than 500 letters.

We mentioned something to him, too, in between the talk of the coming graduation and where to spot him in formation. I made a point to tell him that there’s a new Marine flag flying on top of our knoll among the pines, one his father bought 12 weeks ago and was very proud to raise this past Saturday. And from our son’s reaction to that news, I’d say the reception there on Parris Island was pretty good. Yes, very good — maybe even five bars.


Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at