8/21/2012 6:06 PM ET|
A son's deployment, a mom's distress
As her son serves in Afghanistan, Elizabeth Wood is unemployed and worried about her family's bills and her kids' future.
The front of Elizabeth Wood's house tells a story -- the story, actually, of post-9/11 America:
"Capt. Garrett deployed to Afganastan (sic). Prayers appreciated."
Wood, mother to Marine Capt. Garrett Risberg, 27, wrote the words in large letters on the side of her house that faces the street.
Those who drive by the house at night can't see the message, nor can those who happen to take another road into town. They're like the many millions of other Americans who've passed by a similar home without knowing that inside, this family, too, anxiously awaits a soldier's safe return: 1.9 million troops have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the past 11 years.
Here in Port Jefferson Village, an affluent community on Long Island's north-central shore, people suffer from the same preoccupations that haunt middle-class Americans everywhere. They worry that their property taxes will go up, that their health care costs will soar beyond reach and that their kids will never live lives free of debt. Sometimes, when people drive by Wood's house, they see the big words, "Capt. Garrett deployed . . . ," and stop to wish her well.
Wood, a 55-year-old mother of three, didn't intend to make a political statement or to elicit sympathy when she wrote on the gray cement. She was just a worried mom with a big piece of white chalk, a mom whose son was sent on a second tour of duty in a war zone.
"The day he left, I put it out there, for those who knew and those who didn't know," she said.
Since then, neighbors have told her that "it reminds them every day to keep Garrett in their prayers," she said.
"I've had complete strangers, when I'm out gardening or mowing the lawn, stop, and they tell me to thank my son for what he's doing," she said. "That means so much to me, and the support means so much to my son as well."
Wood lost her job -- as an events manager at a Costco warehouse -- more than a year ago and has been unable to find comparable work, despite "looking religiously," she said. "It's slim pickings."
Her husband is employed by a company that offers health insurance for them both, but he can't support the household on his income alone, Wood said, "nor would I expect him to." So she has become "careful with groceries" and has cut other spending. Her only travel is to New Jersey to visit her elderly father, who insists on slipping her gas money.
Now her children, including the son deployed overseas, are apt to check in on her to see how she's faring. Without a college degree, finding a job that can pay the bills presents an incredible challenge, she said.
"I feel the difference in this day and age, because I don't have that," she said. "If you look at qualifications, that's what they're looking for."
"Can I blame Obama for the economy? I guess, in a way," she said, noting the financial struggles some neighbors have experienced. "People's lives have really changed . . . we all have our little stories, our little cutbacks."
Wood said she doesn't follow politics closely but does vote for Republican presidential candidates. She joked that she gets most of her news when she's riding in the car with her husband, who is an avid listener of conservative talk radio.
Obama lost any good will he could have had, anyway, when he announced military cutbacks. One of her daughters is in an Army ROTC program and is eager to serve her country, Wood said.
Wood also said that she was told that, because of Obama's health care law, her husband's company switched health insurance providers. Her family's new plan offers less coverage and charges higher co-pays. The portions of the Affordable Care Act regarding businesses, however, have yet to take effect, and Wood didn't know what the connection might be, only that "that's the way it was presented to me."
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