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Soldier defies odds to serve, fulfills dreams

Editor's note: Connie Carmichael is the mother of PFC Logan R. Carmichael, who is deployed to Iraq as a combat medic. A shortened version of this article was printed in the Fort Hood Sentinel in Texas.

It all started as an 11 year old's dream to be in the military. At first Logan was determined to be in the Navy just like his grandpa. Over the years he kept that dream alive. Unfortunately in October of 2002 when he was just 18, his dream was sidelined when he found out he had a hole in his heart the size of a small egg (Atrial Septal Defect). Logan underwent open heart surgery for a complete repair on October 18, 2002. After several months of recuperation one of his first questions to the cardiologist was, "Can I still go into the military?" His doctor thought that he could. He said that once the repair was made it was forever. As a parent, to hear that your child's hopes and dreams could be possible after all was amazing. It still gives me goosebumps when I think of the disappointment Logan experienced and the soul searching he went through to try and figure out what he wanted to do after his diagnosis and subsequent surgery. Then to have his dream reinstated ... let's just say it was almost overwhelming. After all isn't that what we all want for our children, for them to be happy, healthy and successful in whatever they choose to do with their life.

After contacting several branches of the military Logan found out he would have to wait five years from surgery and apply for a medical waiver. When the five years was up he began researching the different branches of service. He was not so sure of the Navy anymore as he had several friends in the National Guard and Army. After several months of jumping through hoops, medical testing and letter writing back and forth, the National Guard denied his request for a medical waiver, therefore denying his application. His disappointment was great as was ours. He had worked so hard to get to this point and then to be told no. The most difficult for his dad and me was to actually see the disappointment in his face. It felt like we were being told no. Logan could have appealed the decision but decided to try the Army first.

He submitted his application on a Wednesday afternoon and the following Tuesday he received word he was accepted. What a glorious day that was. He was so excited and we were so proud. He got his orders that he would be shipped out to Basic Training to Fort Benning, Ga., on July 3, 2008. That meant he had several weeks to get his affairs in order and plan his going away party. You might think it is silly to have a going away party for basic training but it was more than that. He signed up for 8 years; six of which was for active duty. His dream is to be stationed in Germany someday, fully expecting and wanting to serve more than one tour of duty. Basically what this meant to us is that he will probably not live in Minnesota or anywhere even near us for a very long time or ever. For a family as close as ours and a mom and dad as sappy as we are it seemed like he was leaving us forever. I think that we are so proud of him that that overshadows our sadness (not sure that is what you call what we feel, maybe there is no name for it). Bittersweet is maybe a better way to explain how we feel. Bitter - separation from our son for indefinite periods of time, basic training, AIT, duty stations, deployments. Fear of the unknown. Sweet - to know that he is entering the next chapter of his life and realizing a dream that he has had as long as he can remember is what any mom and dad hope for their children.

Logan is now deployed to Iraq as a combat medic. Yikes! He was so excited to go. He longed for the adventure and the opportunity to fight for his country. We are beside ourselves with pride. I remember when our local American Legion Club first posted his name on their Active Duty board my six sisters and I gathered at the board and just stared at it. I looked around at them and we were all teary eyed. Not necessarily because we were scared for him but because we were so proud of him. But even more than that he is realizing a dream and doing what he always wanted to do in spite of being sidelined along the way. I can tell you his father and I feel much better sending him off to war knowing what a fighter he is, how stubborn he is, and how much he loves to help people. We are very worried about him and his safety but our love and support for him and the adventure he is now experiencing far surpasses our fear and sadness of missing him.

It is very difficult to be so far away (1,400 miles, 21 hours by car one way), but through phone calls and e-mail Logan has made it a priority to keep in touch with all the preparations and information on his deployment from Fort Hood and has kept that up while in Iraq. The most difficult thing for us was not being there when he actually flew out. It has helped tremendously to receive the Family Readiness packet as well as the opportunity to call and e-mail FRSA Mary Britton (who had promised to give him a hug for us before he boarded the plane). I am the type of person who needs to have all of her ducks in a row. As we have learned since Logan first signed up in the Army, nothing is for sure and everything will happen when it is supposed to and we need to let fate have its chance and trust that the Commanding Officers and Powers That Be will take care of everything including Logan.

Connie Carmichael