My mother is an amazing woman. She turned 80 in April.
May marks the 24th anniversary of my Pay Entry Base Date. It’s my military “born on date,” and it aptly falls near Mother’s Day — as my mother had everything to do with my decision to join the military.
Joan Lyon, my mother, grew up in modest circumstances to become the first person in our family to graduate from college. In 1954, she earned her medical technology degree from Pennsylvania State University. She raised a family of four in a small farmhouse, while working in a difficult job to come home to cook, clean and care for her daughter and three sons. I learned three life lessons from my mother that would lead me to make the decision to join our nation’s military.
My mother, of Emporium, Pa., taught me to despise bullies, defend the defenseless and love my country passionately.
My mom despises bullies. In the 1970s, my mother was the children’s welfare director for our small county in rural Pennsylvania. It was a tough job. My mother was often called in the middle of the night to go to a home accompanied by a Pennsylvania state trooper to confront an abusive parent. Abusive parents are bullies to our society’s weakest members, and bravely my mother did everything she could to right the wrongs that she witnessed. She hated those trips but did them out of a sense of duty to children being burned, beaten and neglected.
My mom always looks out for the defenseless. There were often times when I would wake in the morning and peek down into the bottom bunk to see a kid I had never seen before. At the time, foster care wasn’t as developed as it is today, and mom would be at a loss as to what to do with a child after she had removed him or her from an abusive situation. She would bring children to our crowded farm house and a warm bed. She would feed, bathe and clothe them and then spend the rest of the day trying to find a place to keep them away from the violence they had left.
My mom passionately loves our country. There is not a more heartfelt patriot on the face of this earth. Joan Lyon grew up during World War II, when butter, milk and flour were rationed, and sacrifice was shared by the entire country. She distinctly remembers onion and tomato sandwiches as a delicacy and a movie ticket as a privilege. Even through those experiences, and mostly because of those experiences, her heart burns with a love of our freedom, liberty and constitutional rights.
I have photos of a trip to Georgia my mom and I took in the late 1970s. We drove from Pennsylvania to Georgia to visit my older sister in Atlanta. On that trip we visited as many Civil War battlefield sites as we could. Sleeping in the back of our car, we stopped in the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and New Market, and we toured the battlefields around Atlanta. At the age of 10, I learned tactics, logistics and leadership. Because of her, I, too, fell in love with our country’s heroes and history.
I think those who serve our country really do despise bullies. Since the United Kingdom’s King George III, we as a country have taken offense to the strong taking advantage of the weak. We are taught early on in our military careers that bullies only attack those who they can beat, so the defenseless need to be protected. Unlike some military cultures, we work very hard to minimize civilian casualties and make every effort to minimize collateral damage, oftentimes to our disadvantage. We all love our country. The guy or gal who promises to die for our country was taught that lesson by parents who love them and our country.
So, on this Mother’s Day, I salute all women who teach their children and the ones they love to despise bullies, defend the defenseless and love their country. They, like my mom, Joan Lyon, are my heroes.
Darryl W. Lyon of Bangor is a major in the Maine Army National Guard. He commands the 11th Weapons of Mass Destruction – Civil Support Team.